March 7, 2018

Six Rental Units Planned For Nelson Glass Building on Spring Street

BUILDING UP: JZA+D’s design for the Nelson Glass building on Spring Street stacks six terraced apartments atop the original structure. The rental units will include one designated affordable. Construction could start this summer. (Rendering courtesy of JZA+D Architects)

By Anne Levin

Robbie Nelson has watched many of her contemporaries and fellow Princeton High School graduates sell their families’ properties on Witherspoon Street to people from out of town. She wasn’t about to do that with Nelson Glass, the Spring Street business founded by her late father in 1949.

Instead of selling and moving on, Nelson has elected to maximize the coveted site by hiring Princeton-based architect Joshua Zinder of JZA+D, to add six apartments on three floors. That will leave 2,000 square feet of commercial space on the existing first level. Plans are for Nelson Glass to move out during construction, which could start this summer, and then return.

“I really want to do this as a legacy for my dad and my family,” said Nelson, sole owner of the property, which also includes the house next door at 47 Spring Street, currently divided into two apartments. “The property is under-developed,” Nelson continued. “And we need more housing in downtown Princeton. We’ve been landlords with many rentals. My father owned another five or six houses in the [former] borough and sold them off through the years, except for the house next door. So we are aware of the need for rental space.”

Nelson’s father must have anticipated adding onto the Nelson Glass site, which was constructed 60 years ago. “He put in huge beams, so he always thought he’d build up,” she said. “I had thought about it for a while. I went to see Josh in August 2016 and we talked about many ways of doing this.”

Princeton’s Planning Board voted in favor of the proposal on February 15. Zinder’s design has brick cladding to match the existing building, and adds glass rails and aluminum trim. The nearly 5,000 square feet of residential space includes one 1-bedroom, three 2-bedroom, and two 3-bedroom units, including one designated affordable housing.

“Robbie had this vision, or her father did, that they would go up on top of the building they had,” said Zinder. “The reality is that the property is under-developed for its use. Based on what she was looking for and her desire to maintain the building, it seemed like there was one clear path, which was to stack it up, away from the street, maintaining light and air. Also, we’re building on the character of the industrial modern building they have there, which is from 1958.”

Interior design of the apartments is not complete, but they will be in the style of simple, modern lofts, Zinder said. The project went before the town’s Historical Commission as a courtesy. “It isn’t really historic, but we wanted to do that. And they fully endorsed it,” he said. “They said this was the kind of development we should be doing in Princeton. We heard similar comments from SPRAB (the Site Plan Review Advisory Board).”

The one sticking point was a familiar one — parking. The plan calls for 11 spots, three of which would be stacked parking — one in front of the other. “Planning liked it, but was concerned about parking,” Zinder said. “But there is no project in Princeton that doesn’t have parking issues.”

“Everyone in town deals with stacked parking,” said Nelson. “That was one of our variances they had a bit of an issue with. But it’s not an issue if you’re used to living in Princeton and dealing with it. I find that more people are walking, anyway.”

When completed, the apartments will be known as Glass Haus at the Nelson Building. “It’s been a long time coming,” said Nelson. “The town has been a challenge to deal with. But Josh and my attorney Christopher DeGrezia have done a terrific, bang-up job, and I’m thrilled.”