August 9, 2017

Final Approval Still Pending On Move of Triumph Brewery

The lengthy approval process for the proposed move of Triumph Brewery from its current location on Nassau Street into the former U.S. Post Office branch on Palmer Square continued last week without a final ruling.

On August 3, Princeton’s Planning Board heard more testimony from the preservation architect, traffic consultant, attorneys in favor and opposed to the project, and some members of the public before deciding to continue the discussion at their September 28 meeting. An earlier hearing on July 13 was ended prematurely due to a power outage during a storm.

Businessman David Eichler and Triumph founder Adam Rechnitz have proposed a new glass entrance at what was previously the loading dock of the old post office building. They have said they intend to preserve its historic character while adapting it to use as a 13,000-square-foot restaurant. The oldest building on Palmer Square, it has been vacant since November 2015, when the post office branch downsized to a location behind the 7-Eleven on East Nassau Street.

“It goes without saying that this is one of Princeton’s finest public buildings and has been since its construction,” said Michael Mills, the exterior and historical architect for the project. The proposal to relocate Triumph “is first and foremost about preserving a great architectural resource for Princeton. And it is also about putting a vibrant new use into this building.”

Mr. Mills said the envelope of the building is in good condition. “Our intention is to repair and restore. We’re very lucky it was so well designed to begin with, so repairs are not too major.” Replacing the old loading dock with a new glass entry “will really clean up that whole part of the street and be a real asset to the downtown,” he said.

Traffic consultant Georges Jacquemart told the Planning Board that no significant traffic impact would come from the proposed new use. “We feel there is ample parking capacity within the immediate area surrounding the project site,” he said. “I feel very comfortable that people who go to this restaurant will find parking. They find parking today, there’s no doubt about it.”

Also discussed were the types of trucks that would make deliveries to the restaurant, as well as when they would be at the site. Only one of those vehicles is an 18-wheeler, which makes deliveries once per quarter of malted barley for making beer, said a Triumph representative.

Attorney Chad Warnken, representing Palmer Square resident Scott Sipprelle, said Mr. Sipprelle is not opposed to a restaurant being put into the space. “We just believe the proposal is too large,” he said. “The main thrust of our case is we believe this change of use leads to a much more intensive use than was previously there.”

Former Princeton Borough Mayor Yina Moore commented that the increased traffic from the restaurant would mean that more people in search of free parking will crowd the streets of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, where there are no parking meters.

Architect and former Borough Councilman Kevin Wilkes said he admires the proposal because of its design. “What’s remarkable to me about the design of this renovation is that it turns all four sides of this building into special space with interesting elevations, that really makes it an object inside the U-shaped configuration of the buildings around it,” he said. Mr. Wilkes urged the Board to consider whether the applicant will be a good steward that will care for the building and move it into the future. “I think we have good reason to believe this group will, because they have been in our community for 22 years. They are not unknown to us.”