October 30, 2013

Carnevale Family Will Appeal to Planners In Effort to Redevelop Wild Oats Site

The owners of the former Wild Oats market property, whose proposal for redeveloping the site was rejected last week by the Princeton Zoning Board, will resubmit their request to the Planning Board, a spokesperson for the family has said.

“The Carnevales are dismayed and extremely disappointed that the Princeton Zoning Board voted to deny their request to be permitted to lease office space to other uses besides just medical and dental offices,” said Linda Fahmie, who represents the family, in an e-mail yesterday.

The board voted 5-1 against the idea, which would have allowed businessman Lou Carnevale and his family to transform the property into a four-story building with first-floor offices. Mr. Carnevale’s request runs contrary to a zoning ordinance the former Princeton Borough Council passed last December, limiting the building to three stories.

The proposal calls for a 4,500-square-foot bank, 5,400 square feet of office space, 16 apartments and 57 parking spaces. Variances would be needed for parking and office space usage. At the last minute, Mr. Carnevale’s lawyer offered to change the proposal to limit the office space to 1,000 square feet, to house a management office for the building. But the Board still voted the proposal down.

“Even their request to at least be able to have a small 1,000 square foot management office at the rear of the building to deal with the 16 residential units was denied,” Ms. Fahmie said. “Nonetheless, they [the Carnevales] remain committed to redeveloping their property and will resubmit their plans to Princeton Planning Board.”

The redevelopment plan for the building, which currently houses a CrossFit gym, has been the subject of considerable debate. Many residents of the neighborhood are opposed to the proposal, preferring to see restaurants and retail establishments at the site. The rezoning by Borough Council last year would allow banks, which the Carnevales have maintained are interested in the site while restaurants are not. But the rezoning banned parking in front of redeveloped businesses, and parking in front of the building is part of the Carnevales’ request.

A driveway that runs between the building and the adjacent property is owned by Princeton University. The University offered a 60-year license agreement for use of the driveway, but the family wanted a permanent easement. Their request for a new curb cut on Nassau Street, included because of the University’s denial of a permanent easement, is another source of contention among some neighborhood residents.

The Carnevale property has been the site of Wild Oats and, earlier, Davidson’s markets. Previously. the building housed an automobile dealership. The area of East Nassau Street is often referred to as Gasoline Alley, because it once was home to several gas stations and car dealerships.

Mr. Carnevale is the former owner of The Annex, a longtime restaurant on Nassau Street which closed in 2006.