Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 43
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
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Green Light for Nassau Inn Expansion

Dilshanie Perera

The Regional Planning Board last Thursday approved an application by the Nassau Inn for expansion on Hulfish Street. The decision allows for a six-story addition encompassing 40 new hotel rooms, and ballroom, retail, and loading dock spaces, to be built adjacent to and connecting with the existing structure.

Planning Director Lee Solow explained the history of the case. In 1998, the Nassau Inn received approval from the Planning Board for a six-story addition along Hulfish, but since the approval for the variance lapsed and changes were made to the application, the Inn brought its request this year to the Board to review.

Observing that the “area of disturbance is limited to Palmer Square South” and totals approximately one acre of the 8.5 that comprise the square, Mr. Solow specified that the addition will total 39,000 square feet. The existing 84 rooms in the Inn will be renovated to 52 rooms, and the building currently occupied by Lindt Chocolate will be demolished and replaced by a three-story structure in which the ground floor will be retail space, and the others devoted to meetings and fitness, he noted.

Palmer Square West around the Yankee Doodle Tap Room will see an outdoor dining area and a new entrance into the restaurant as well, according to Mr. Solow.

The Nassau Inn was requesting three variances from the Planning Board, one for building a structure six stories high where five is the maximum, another for a building height of 66.89 feet where 65 is the maximum, and the last for a waiver on creating 69 additional parking spaces to accommodate the expansion.

Mr. Solow said that he had “no objection to the building height,” but did note that 95 feet of facade along Hulfish and the loss of the paved but open courtyard is something to consider, and that additional information on parking supply in the downtown is requested.

Pepper Hamilton Attorney Tom Letizia, representing the Nassau Inn, said that the new plans have “some architectural refining” but are otherwise “essentially the same” as those of ten years ago. Principal architect Tom Perrino from Spiezle Architectural Group commented that no mechanical equipment will be visible to the public, and that the current Lindt Chocolate building would be rebuilt with the same footprint. He added that the designs of the extension line up the floors with the existing wing of the Nassau Inn, thereby providing continuity to the downtown area landscape.

The Inn’s traffic and parking consultant Georges Jacquemart of BFJ Planning said that the capacity of all of the garages in the downtown area near Hulfish Street is 1,009 spaces. “At any given time, they are 67 percent occupied,” he said, noting that the expansion of the Nassau Inn should not dramatically increase the need for more parking spaces.

The Planning Board’s consultant Brian Stankus from Orth-Rogers and Associates agreed with Mr. Jacquemart’s assessment, saying that “we feel that with the occupancy lots and parking lots there will be sufficient capacity.”

General Manager of the Nassau Inn Lori Rabon anticipated that construction on the proposed development would begin in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Representing the Borough Merchants for Princeton, Travis Linderman of the Maclean Agency expressed support of the proposed expansion, noting that “as merchants, and local business owners, we want to capture [new] business,” while adding that “we need this capacity and we need upgrades within the Nassau Inn.”

“It is vital to our survival as merchants as well as to attracting new businesses and new revenue,” Mr. Linderman emphasized.

Regional Planning Board member Marvin Reed commended Ms. Rabon on the proposal, noting that had she built the addition ten years ago, it “would have been a nice improvement, but it would not have been anywhere near as significant as what you are doing now.”

The motion to approve the expansion of the Nassau Inn carried unanimously.

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