Officials agree to accept firehouse bid

November 24, 1992

Officials agree to accept firehouse bid

By Laurie Lynn Strasser

Princeton Borough and Township officials agreed in closed session Tuesday night to sell the Chambers Street firehouse for $500,000, even though that amount will not offset as much as they had hoped of the $2.1 million debt for the new Witherspoon Street fire station.

“It’s going to the highest bidder,” Borough Councilman Ray Wadsworth said following the closed meeting between the council and the Princeton Township Committee.

During the meeting, the two governing bodies discussed whether to reject the high bid made at a Nov. 12 auction by entrepreneur Rysia de Ravel. The bid was lower than they had anticipated.

“Many of the members felt that it was an appropriate bid,” Township Committeewoman Ellen Souter said. “Not everybody voted that way. I still think the price is too low and I cannot be swayed from that point.”

Although the council has until Dec. 8 to render a decision, it plans to consider a resolution to accept the offer Dec. 3, Borough Administrator Thomas Shannon said Wednesday.

“We wouldn’t be putting that re-solution on if we didn’t think that was the direction we were heading towards,” he said.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to help pay for the construction of Mercer Engine Co. No. 3’s new home on Witherspoon Street.

The township is responsible for repaying 65 percent debt and the borough for 34 percent.

“The net debt to the borough and the township will be a larger amount,” Mr. Shannon said, stressing that nobody ever imagined the sale of the old firehouse would fully fund the new one. “They already have passed bond ordinances and borrowed money for construction. Now we know what the balance is that needs to be paid off.”

In reaching the consensus, borough and township officials considered testimony from Coldwell Banker’s auction division manager, Joseph Zidek. They also discussed a Nov. 20 memorandum from Mr. Shannon recommending that the municipalities accept the bid.

The property was adequately marketed, and there was no reason to believe that reauctioning it would fetch a higher price, the memo said, because a potential buyer would be saddled with high costs of rehabilitation and satisfying building codes.

Once the borough accepts the bid, the purchaser has 60 days to indicate whether she will either obtain emergency access easements from neighbors or fireproof the interior.

“I’m very pleased, but I think that I should wait and make sure it actually happens before I start to think about what I am going to do with the space,” said Ms. de Ravel, a Lawrenceville resident, on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to spend any money on it until I get a green light,” she said. “Assuming that on Dec. 3 this all gets approved, I will contact the appropriate professionals and study what the alternatives are. I haven’t pursued the easement issue. I haven’t spoken with any structural engineers on a formal basis.”

One option, she said, was to move her New York corporate conference call company, Delacom, into at least two of the three floors.

She ruled out converting the building into a restaurant, claiming it was not an appropriate economic decision for that building.”

Real estate agent Martha Stockton expects a 2 percent cut of Coldwell Banker’s 5 percent commission on the sale.

“Until everybody signs, seals and delivers, you don’t count your chickens in this business,” she said. “I think they’re wise to accept the bid. She’s got the wherewithal to make that building something the borough will be proud of.”

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