Princeton Borough clears way for

The Princeton Packet

September 11, 1992

Princeton Borough clears way for…

By John P. McAlpin

Staff Writer

With two actions Tuesday, Princeton Borough Council cleared the way to sell the Chambers Street Firehouse and hopefully get the best price for the building.

Council members agreed to change restrictive zoning regulations and they agreed to hire an auctioneer to sell the building sometime in October.

Both decisions come as the $2 million new home for the Mercer Engine Co. No. 3 nears completion. Borough and fire company officials said they hope to move into the Witherspoon Street facility by Oct. 1.

With the fire company almost out, borough officials can prepare to sell the building and recoup the construction costs.

Tuesday’s formal actions were among the last steps the borough needs to take before the auctioneer — the realty firm of Coldwell Banker Schlott — offers the property to the highest bidder sometime next month.

By changing zoning regulations, buyers can now convert the firehouse to a restaurant without providing off-street parking.

Before the council’s changes — which now head to the Princeton Regional Planning Board for consideration — the Chambers Street lot would have required parking spaces or an official exemption for those spaces.

But borough officials found an existing ordinance exempted office and retail business on small lots — less than 5,000 square feet — from those parking requirements.

Council’s action adds bars and restaurants to the list of exemptions, as long as the lot is under 5,000 square feet and the owner provides 400 square feet of table space inside.

Borough Council’s change now allows restaurants and bars in the smaller lots in the Central Business District, Mayor Reed explained.

“It will not only help when it comes to sell the firehouse but it helps in the Planning Board’s efforts to get more sit-down restaurants in the Centeral Business District,” Mayor Reed said.

“This change does not affect Palmer Square but rather the smaller places, like Tulane Street and Chambers Street,” he added.

For the borough, the move may mean that the three-story historic building could bring in a higher sale price now that the official route to a restaurant is easier.

“It may mean that an office building might bring the highest price but we could get a higher price if we have more people bidding on the building,” Mayor Reed said.

“(The zoning change) would give us an even playing field when we are auctioning the building,” he said. “Much of the interest has come from people interested in that building for a restaurant use.”

Borough officials expect the auction will be scheduled sometime in October. The realty firm will handle all of the work for the auction and handle all of the associated costs, Borough Administrator Thomas Shannon said.

“We pay no costs,” he said.

Fees for advertising, listing, photographing and everything else “comes out of the 5 percent commission,” he said.

The borough agreed to pay the firm 5 percent of the building’s final sale price, Mr. Shannon said.

That figure is set by state statutes and is consistent with other similar auctions, he explained.

Once the building is sold, the borough will split the proceeds with Princeton Township. Both municipalities fund the fire department, with the township paying roughly two-thirds of the costs.

The proceeds of the sale will be split using that same method, officials said.

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