June 7, 2023

Construction at 20 Nassau Street Causes Temporary Closure of Several Businesses

By Anne Levin

A row of retail businesses on the ground floor of 20 Nassau Street, the former office building currently being renovated to become the Graduate Hotel, will close for anywhere from 20 to 50 days to allow for key structural and safety measures to be undertaken.

Jammin’ Crepes, Sakrid Coffee, Small Bites, Milk and Cookies, and Nassau Barbers are affected by the work. How long each will be closed depends on their location and size.

“With the building being historic, and kind of old, you find things once you open up walls,” said Pablo David, vice president of government affairs and community relations with A.J. Capital Partners, owners of the Graduate Hotel chain. “Needs are different. Issues range from fire safety to structural problems, utilities, and HVAC. Some major upgrades are needed throughout that portion of the building, to make it safe.”

David said the organization has been in communication with each of the business owners about the closures. “Everyone has had several touchpoints making sure they knew what was ahead,” he said. “We’ve been trying to work with them to make their lives a little bit easier. But obviously, it’s a disruption.”

Kathy Klockenbrink, co-owner of Jammin’ Crepes, said the restaurant will be closed from June 12 until the work is done. “We have been in discussions with them since about the first of the year. We weren’t expecting it to be this long, but we knew there would be some interruption,” she said.

Structural work between the retail space and the second floor, which will be housing hotel guests, necessitated the temporary closing. “It has a lot to do with fire protection. I support what they have to do,” Klockenbrink said. “It doesn’t mean we like it, but it is an essential part of the next step, and we understand that.”

Jammin’ Crepes will continue to operate its food truck at the West Windsor Farmers Market on Saturdays, run the Jammin’ Community Café at Princeton Public Library, and cater private events while the main location is closed.

Tony Kanterakis, who runs Small Bites as well as Local Greek [on Leigh Avenue], said that while the closing is disruptive, he understands it needs to take place. “Long term, it will be a good thing for us,” he said. “I understand that they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do.”

Kanterakis opened Local BBQ in Hopewell two weeks ago. He is deciding whether the location at 20 Nassau Street will be called Greek Bites or Local BBQ when the construction work is done. “We’re leaning toward BBQ, and we’ll offer Southern breakfast as well,” he said.

David said the Graduate Hotel is targeted to open in early 2024. Launched in 2014 and based in Nashville, the parent company focuses on college towns, and has more than 30 hotels across the country as well as two in England.

The construction process, which began two years ago and has included demolition of a row along Chambers Street, has not been without controversy. Residents of Bank Street, which is behind the building, voiced numerous concerns about construction, traffic, and aesthetics before work began, resulting in adjustments to some of the plans. This past April, local workers from various labor unions spent two weeks protesting the hotel contractor’s use of non-local workers who are not from Mercer County.

David said he looks forward to the end of the process and the return of retailers to their locations. “We know how important these businesses are to Princeton. We look at them as anchors to that side of Nassau Street,” he said.