October 4, 2017

Planning Board Approves Developer’s Proposal For Former Post Office

By Anne Levin

Princeton’s Planning Board last week voted unanimously in favor of an application to turn the former U.S. Post Office branch on Palmer Square into a restaurant. Triumph Brewing Company is expected to move from its current location on Nassau Street to the historic Palmer Square building. No official target date for the move has been mentioned.

“My client closed with the post office and is the owner of this building,” attorney Richard Goldman assured the planners, referring to California developer David Eichler, before the vote was taken. “He is committed to this project, and in a big financial way.”

Eichler’s firm won the bidding war for the property in 2013, when the longtime postal branch was targeted for closing as part of a nationwide downsizing by the U.S. Post Office. The branch moved to a smaller location behind the 7-Eleven store on East Nassau Street in 2015.

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 pledged to preserve the historic character of the 80-year-old building, the oldest on Palmer Square, while adapting it for use as a 13,000-square-foot restaurant. In addition to the glass enclosed entry, plans include a widened sidewalk, benches, and the planting of trees.

“Nobody on our side is fighting in any way to change the building. Our goal is to restore, preserving as it looks today except for the new glass entry in the back,” Goldman said. “The remaining facades will stay as they are.”

Goldman and others representing the project appeared before the Planning Board numerous times before finally getting approval at the September 28 meeting. Preservation architect Michael Mills and traffic consultant Georges Jacquemart were among those presenting different aspects of the proposal and fielding questions from the board at previous meetings. Traffic, parking, preservation, and floor area were among the concerns expressed by some planners and members of the public.

Jacquemart concluded, in a study, that there is ample parking available for the hours that the restaurant would be open. Planning Board member David Cohen said that while he is enthusiastic about the proposal, especially its preservation aspects, he still had “niggling concerns” about the parking.

The Princeton Environmental Commission and Princeton Historical Commission have weighed in with recommendations during the process. Goldman said that with the exception of adding showers, most of the environmental commission’s suggestions would be followed. “We’ll consider them all and implement as many as we can,” he said.

Planning Board chair Wanda Gunning expressed enthusiasm for the proposal. “I feel a lot of affection for the historic buildings of Princeton,” she said. “It’s really a remarkable plan and I’m looking forward to having it go forward.”

Triumph, which also has a location in New Hope, Pa., has been operating out of a former bowling alley at 138 Nassau Street for the past 22 years.