June 29, 2016
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TRAIN TRANSFORMATION: The Dinky Bar & Kitchen, formerly the Dinky train station on Alexander Street, is scheduled to open at the end of July, with 54 seats indoors and 26 outdoors, fully renovated kitchen area where the ticket office used to be, and drinking and eating area in the old waiting room. (Photo by Henry Gilpin)

The Dinky Bar and Kitchen, the next addition to the Arts and Transit neighborhood taking shape on Alexander Street, will open at the end of July in the renovated building that formerly housed the old train station.

“Cocktails, wine, beer, spirits, snacks, small plates, neat eats” reads the sign in front of the building under construction. According to Jim Nawn, owner of Fenwick Hospitality Group, which is developing the project in partnership with building owner Princeton University, patrons can look forward to “a comfortable bar environment in an interesting old building.”

The stone station house was constructed in 1918 in the collegiate gothic style, and includes the ticket office, which will be the kitchen area of the new establishment, and the domed-ceilinged passenger hall, which will include 54 seats and a bar with some counter-height tables, and 26 additional seats outside. The original train station was closed permanently in August 2013, with the new station and ticket office opening one block southeast on Alexander Street in November 2014.

“It’s a beautiful building in a lot of ways,” said Mr. Nawn, whose Fenwick Group also owns Agricola, Main Street Restaurant Group, and the Great Road Farm. “We are aware that good food needs to be part of the service” he continued, and also mentioned that the fare would offer “ingredient-inspired” food from the Great Road Farm, “including fresh produce, pickled and preserved items, charcuterie items made by our butcher, and cheese and meats in a local, farm-inspired context — sharable food, served on smaller-sized plates.”

The bar and grill, interior designed by Celano Design Studio of New York, will be open from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

Also in the works as part of the station complex designed by Rick Joy Architects of Tucson, Arizona, is a full-scale restaurant, to be housed in the larger, southern station building, formerly used for freight storage. It is scheduled to open by the middle of next year and will seat about 150, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

July might be a quiet time on Alexander Street, with both McCarter Theatre and the University on summer schedules, but Mr. Nawn is optimistic about the prospect of the Dinky Bar and Kitchen “starting slow to get the operation going,” then “coming up to speed in the fall.”

”When something new comes along,” he said, “it may attract attention and be busy even in summer.” Mr. Nawn looked forward to the completion of the Arts and Transit project next year, “The station complex will be a great amenity for the community,” he stated, “a quality bar, grill, and restaurant for commuters, students, theater-goers, and others.”

In the meantime, Mr. Nawn mentioned “a number of projects underway” at Main Street (comprised of the Main Street Bistro in Princeton Shopping Center, Main Street Eatery and Gourmet in Kingston, and Main Street Catering in Rocky Hill), which Fenwick acquired four months ago.

He noted a “need for some refreshing and renovation” and mentioned adjustments this summer in the menu and cosmetic changes to the bistro, but emphasized “this is a process. We hope people are patient.”

 

Last year, Princeton passed an ordinance to limit the size and regulate the placement of sandwich board signs outside businesses in town. This didn’t sit well with some proprietors, many of whom are members of the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA).

In an effort to provide recommendations for improvements to that ordinance and others that may be developed as the municipality continues to harmonize documents from the former Borough and Township, the PMA held a workshop last week at the Arts Council of Princeton. The June 21 event was led by architect Joshua Zinder of the firm JZA + D, and attended by some representatives of local businesses and members of the town’s administrative staff as well as Mayor Liz Lempert and Councilwoman Jo Butler.

“We’ve worked on a number of shops in town, and it always seems to come up that people feel the signage [regulation] is very restrictive, without a clear understanding of why,” Mr. Zinder said a few days before the workshop. “It has come up a number of times at PMA, and several people have asked me about it.”

After the sandwich board ordinance went into effect, “Many of the merchants in town were very upset about how it was being approved,” Mr. Zinder continued. “They didn’t feel there was a good dialogue where they were included in the discussion. They felt it was the municipality, and a couple of isolated people in the community, without consulting the merchants in general.”

The PMA had some talks with members of Council, and the ordinance was put on hold. Last week’s workshop was focused not only on the sandwich board signs, but on all of the different types and styles utilized by local businesses. Mr. Zinder gave a presentation that was followed by a discussion. The possibility of installing wayfinding signs, with information about how far and approximately how long a walk it would be to a destination, was proposed.

One issue that concerns merchants is the amount of time it can take to get signage approved, especially if the process involves coordination with the Historic Preservation Commission. Lighting was another focus of the discussion. Newer technology makes it easier to control light bleed from signage, which presents new and different opportunities, Mr. Zinder said.

The challenge is to attract local residents to the downtown businesses while also bringing in people from the outside. “There are a lot of empty stores in town,” said Mr. Zinder. “Unique merchants who would be attracted to Princeton are going to Route 1 and the malls, where there is free parking, and you can have any kind of sign you want. Here, there are controls. We don’t make it easy for merchants to come to Princeton.”

The PMA will take information from the workshop and elsewhere, and come back to Council with ideas for improving the ordinances. “My sense is that Council wants to make this work,” Ms. Lempert said this week. “I’m sure there is a solution in there somewhere.”

 

Two months after hiring a consultant to take a hard look at residential zoning in Princeton, the town has launched a website to keep citizens abreast of efforts to stem the speed of teardowns in local neighborhoods and the buildings that replace them. The site, princetonneighborhoods.org, also invites residents to provide comments on zoning issues.

The website is part of a community planning effort created in response to citizens’ concerns about residential development and the changing character of the town. All of the four candidates in this month’s Democratic primary election stressed these issues as priorities in their campaigns. Republican mayoral candidate Peter Marks has also focused on zoning and preserving neighborhood character.

Princeton Council voted April 25 to hire the RBA Group, which recently headed a similar project in Haddonfield, for the project. It comes at a time when efforts are being made to harmonize the zoning ordinances of the previous Borough and Township. “We see on the ground, in almost every neighborhood, the motivation for why we need to take a step back and review what the laws are on the books,” Mayor Liz Lempert said last month. “We need to know whether they are in line with the vision we have for our community.”

A subcommittee from the town’s Planning Board including Mayor Lempert, Jenny Crumiller, Wanda Gunning, Tim Quinn, and Gail Ullman is leading the initiative with a goal of creating strategies, policies, guidelines, and regulations to shape future development so that it better complements the character of Princeton’s neighborhoods and streets. The fact that each of the town’s neighborhoods has its own character adds to the challenge for those involved. Residents are encouraged to participate by adding their comments on the website.

The site includes a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that links to research on studies carried out in other communities. Questions range from how long the study will take to whether a moratorium on residential development will be considered in New Jersey.

The website indicates that one of the first and most important steps in the project is to collect data in order to understand the geography and scale of residential expansions, demolitions, and development in Princeton. Short-term changes expected to be adopted within the next four months could include “quick fix” revisions to site plan review and zoning standards “that will lead to improved outcomes from the demolition of older houses and the siting, design, and construction of new houses and yards,” the website reads.

Mid-term changes are identified as possible master plan amendments or additional zoning adjustments that set the stage for more significant changes that could be adopted in the long-term, and could be implemented in six to eight months. Long-term, substantive changes, which could go into practice within a year, might include substantive changes to the structure of residential zoning.

The RBA Group, formerly Brown & Keener Urban Design, was previously involved in developing the concept for Princeton’s Hinds Plaza and Spring Street Garage. Architects, planners, and landscape architects from the firm will participate in the project, partnering with Urban Partners. Both firms are based in Philadelphia.

To provide comments, write to the email address contact@princetonneighborhoods.org or mail comments in a sealed envelope to Neighborhood Character and Zoning Initiative, care of Princeton Planning Department, 400 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08540.

 

June 22, 2016

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Participants confer on-site during Saturday’s interactive open house on re-thinking the aesthetics of Nassau Street. Hosted by The Garden Theatre, the event was sponsored by the Municipality of Princeton in partnership with the Princeton Merchants Association and Princeton University. Some of the ideas generated are discussed in this week’s Town Talk. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

Come July, you might find Princeton’s municipal engineer Bob Kiser driving a tractor across the fields of a farm he owns in Hunterdon County. Mr. Kiser is retiring next week after 33 years on the job, and he is looking forward to spending time with his family С especially his six-and-a-half-month-old granddaughter С and cutting the grass with that tractor. more

Gillett Griffin

The legacy of Gillett Griffin, who died on June 6 at the age of 87, was vast and eclectic. And that’s just the tangible legacy. (A full obituary appears on page 31.)

Only two weeks ago, shortly before his death, he gave to the Historical Society of Princeton from his personal collection more than 50 photographs, manuscript items, sculptures, books, newspaper clippings, personal possessions and ephemera related to Albert Einstein С who was a personal friend of Mr. Griffin from 1953 until Einstein’s death in 1955. more

As U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson prepared to consider The Princeton Battlefield Society’s (PBS) motion for an injunction to halt construction activity on the site of proposed Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) housing, two British military heritage organizations entered the longstanding controversy. more

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TACKLING THE TANGO: Princeton’s many tango enthusiasts gather regularly at the Suzanne Patterson Center to learn from the pros and hear music by prominent groups from around the world.

When fans of tango travel to foreign countries, it doesn’t take them long to locate kindred spirits. There are tango communities all over the world. Princeton boasts its own active group, Viva Tango Inc., which meets regularly at the Suzanne Patterson Center to learn new dance steps, hear music, and socialize. more

Why is Old York Road located where it is? Why are the streets of Clinton laid out as they are? Why did North Hunterdon County see so little activity during the American Revolution? These questions and more will be answered by geologist John Allen at Hunterdon Land Trust’s Farmers’ Market on Sunday, June 26 at 10:30 a.m. more

ISLES_Grads

The 2016 Isles Youth Institute Commencement Ceremony took place on Tuesday, June 21 at the Mercer County Park Marina and Boathouse in West Windsor. The ceremony is the culmination of a year’s worth of academic and job training for students at Isles Youth Institute (IYI), an alternative school that emphasizes leadership development and civic engagement for students who have dropped out of traditional high school. Students participate in afterschool activities and volunteer extensively in the community. The staff works with students to help them apply to college and pursue employment. Trenton resident, author, entrepreneur, and Isles Trustee Tracey Syphax was the keynote speaker. 

The girl from L.A. had just arrived in Venice and was sitting at a cafe on Piazza San Marco being hassled by a Yugoslavian when she noticed a bedraggled individual shuffling across the great space, probably on his way to the American Express office to check for mail. His hair was long and scraggly and his jeans were baggy and halfway falling down, as if he had recently lost a great deal of weight. For the better part of a year she’d been exchanging letters with a guy she’d met in Berkeley; they had arranged to meet at the foot of the campanile on the evening of June 21.  more

Princeton residents can now keep up to date on crime in their neighborhoods, examining crime trends right along with police officials. more

Mercer Lake

The Mercer County Park Commission will host several kayak tours of Mercer Lake in West Windsor this summer.

These tours will explore the nooks and crannies of the 365-acre Mercer Lake that are accessible only via kayak. Led by County Naturalist Jenn Rogers, participants will have the opportunity to paddle along the lake’s edge for views of the native wildflowers in bloom, float alongside a beaver lodge, and maybe even see a bald eagle swoop down to grab a snack from the water.  more

Theater rev

Princeton Summer Theater’s (PST) 2016 season opener, Assassins, is chilling in its timeliness.

Just five days after a gunman assassinated 49 people in Orlando, the opening-night audience watched as nine characters — all wannabe assassins of U.S. Presidents — paraded across the Hamilton Murray stage, brandishing an array of firearms.  more

Art McCurry

“AFGHAN GIRL”: This iconic photograph by Steve McCurry will be on display at the Michener Art Museum starting July 16 as part of the exhibit, “Unguarded, Untold, Iconic: Afghanistan through the Lens of Steve McCurry.”

In an exhibition that opens on July 16, 2016, the James A. Michener Art Museum will present a collection of photographs by Steve McCurry, the photographer whose iconic image “Afghan Girl” captivated the world in 1985.  more

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PARTING SHOT: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse senior star Connor Fletcher prepares to fire the ball in a game this spring. Cornell-bound Fletcher tallied 46 points this season on 20 goals and 26 assists to help the Panthers win both the Mercer County Tournament and state Prep B tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team lacking some offensive firepower coming into the spring due to graduation, attrition, and transfer, Julia Ryan was asked to take on a new role in her senior campaign. more

Art Ellarsie Open 33 6-22-16

Now is the chance to visit the Ellarslie Open 33 Juried Exhibit that will close on June 26. This painting by Sheila Grabarsky titled “Orange Segment” won the Douglas H. Palmer Award for Best in Show Overall and is part of the exhibition. Along with this piece are more than 180 artworks from area artists that are currently on view at the Trenton City Museum. 

This season Princeton Festival has undertaken one of the most complex and challenging operas in the repertory with Benjamin Britten’s dark but poetic Peter Grimes. Like the World War II years in which the opera was composed, Peter Grimes has many levels, reaching back to 19th century morality while drawing on fears and suspicions still prevalent today. The date of the opera’s premiere, in London’s first few post-war months, makes the genesis of this work even more remarkable.  more

Theater Frozen 6-22-16

State Theatre of NJ in New Brunswick will host a free screening of Disney’s “Frozen” on Tuesday, July 12 at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. The event is part of a Free Summer Movie Series at the State Theatre. Upcoming films include “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Babe,” and “Monsters University.” For more information, visit www.statetheatrenj.org

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ON THE JOB: Matt Madalon is all smiles during a lighter moment this spring as he took the helm of the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team as interim head coach in the wake of Chris Bates being dismissed after a sideline incident in a game against Brown. Madalon guided the Tigers to a 3-2 record down the stretch after a 2-6 start, culminating with a dramatic 7-6 win over Cornell in the season finale. Last week, Madalon was elevated to permanent head coach of the Princeton program. (Photo by Robert Goldstein, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Matt Madalon is all about moving forward.

After being named the interim head coach of the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team in the wake of Chris Bates being dismissed after a sideline incident in a game against Brown, Madalon focused on righting the ship. more

Music PSC 6-22-16

SUMMER COURTYARD CONCERT SERIES: Soul R&B artist Lindsey Webster will perform at the Princeton Shopping Center on Thursday, July 7 at 6 p.m. as part of the Summer Courtyard Concert Series.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP), in partnership with the Princeton Shopping Center and Edens, presents the Summer Courtyard Concert Series every Thursday from June 23 to August 25 at 6 p.m. in the Princeton Shopping Center Courtyard, 301 North Harrison Street.  more

Dark Star Orchestra - Publicity Images - 2016

Dark Star Orchestra – Publicity Images – 2016 – Suzy Perler

The Mercer County Park Commission announces that “Dark Star Orchestra: Continuing the Grateful Dead Concert” is coming to Mercer County Park Festival Grounds on Friday, August 12. The concert will start at 6 p.m., with doors opening at 5 p.m. Tickets are $27 for general admission and are available now for purchase through the Sun National Bank Center box office. To purchase, call (800)-298-4200 or visit www.sunnationalbankcenter.com

Piano Winners

Over 120 young pianists competed in this year’s Princeton Festival Piano Competition. The 2016 Young Artist Winners are (l to r): Mia Huang, Petrina Steimel, Stephen Joven-Lee, Isabella Florendo, Kyle Huang, Angeline Ma and Linsy Wang. Jacobs Music was again the sponsor for the Young Pianists Competition, which has been a highly anticipated feature of The Princeton Festival since 2008. Lois Laverty and Glenn Smith were Masters of Ceremonies and Randy Brown from Jacobs Music Company presented the awards. (Photo Credit: Pia Ruggles) 

June 19, 2016

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These were the words used by one of this week’s Town Talkers to describe Larry Ivan’s presence in the community, which he made “a more fun place to be for so many people.” The unveiling of the bronze bas relief portrait of Mr. Ivan created by Princeton sculptor Stephanie Magdziak took place at Community Park Pool, where he served as manager for more than 40 years. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

June 17, 2016

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VAULTING AHEAD: Princeton High track star Nick Birnie heads down the runway in the pole vault last Wednesday at the Meet of Champions at Central Regional High in Bayville. Senior Birnie, the Group 4 champion in the pole vault, cleared a personal record 14’0 in taking fourth at the prestigious competition. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Nick Birnie, hurting his back competing in rowing helped put him on the track to stardom in the pole vault for Princeton High. more