August 11, 2021

Interior Demolition For Graduate Hotel Projected To Start This Month

By Anne Levin

Pending approval from various agencies, work is anticipated to begin by the end of this month on the transformation of 20 Nassau Street into the 180-room Graduate Hotel.

The project, which was approved by the Princeton Zoning Board last February, is to start with interior demolition of the three-story buildings on Chambers Street that will be taken down to make room for a section of the hotel, which will front Chambers Street. That part of the demolition has to be approved by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

“All of this is anticipated, pending approval by different agencies,” said Jim Purcell, Princeton’s land use engineer. “They expect to have that approval by the middle of this month, and begin by the end of the month.”

Exterior demolition is targeted for November. “We’ve asked them to make sure they’re not impacting traffic till after the holidays,” Purcell said.

Launched in 2014, Graduate Hotels is run by AJ Capital Partners. The company, which focuses on college towns, has 30 locations across the country and two in England. Along with Princeton; Palo Alto, Calif., and Dallas are future locations under development.
The hotel is on the site of a longtime office and retail building that has been occupied for decades by more than 100 small businesses, including psychologists and counselors. Among the retail operations currently located on Nassau Street between Chambers and Bank streets are Jammin’ Crepes, Milk and Cookies, Orvana, Sakrid Coffee, and Small Bites.

Approval for the project came after several public meetings, during which residents of neighboring Bank Street voiced numerous concerns about construction, traffic, and aesthetics. Graduate Hotels held separate meetings with residents, and adjusted some plans in response to some of those concerns. A 20-foot wall will separate the rear of the hotel property and the Bank Street neighborhood.

Scaffolding will be put up before replacement of windows on 20 Nassau Street gets underway. “It’s to protect pedestrians,” Purcell said. “There will be a covered walkway. They’ve told us that it will be done in a more aesthetic way than what you might see in a big city. The businesses are going to stay in operation during the process, and there will be signs on the scaffolding to identify the businesses.”

Until the interior demolition is completed, the entire construction schedule for the project is hard to pin down. “They do have to do a presentation to Council before they start the exterior demolition, and of course the public can come to that,” Purcell said. “It hasn’t been scheduled yet, but I think they are thinking maybe October.”