25 November, 1988
Sweeping approval for land swaps
Unanimous vote by school board clinches firehouse site
By Barbara Preston
Princeton officials can now begin looking for an architect to design a three-bay firehouse on Witherspoon Street.
Tuesday night, Princeton Township and Borough acquired the land they need when the Princeton Regional Board of Education unanimously agreed to give them the deed to a 20-car parking lot adjacent to the Valley Road Building.
In exchange, Princeton Township is giving the school board a 14-acre site adjacent to the Johnson Park School off Rosedale Road. This land s currently used as open space, but it iuld be used for a park with soccer ‘Ids or baseball diamonds.
The Princeton regional schools are […] of land for recreation and the site will come in handy if the board has to reopen in the Johnson Park School in the near future, which it expects it might have to do, board members said.
“Our next step will be to hire an architect,” Committeeman Thomas Poole said. “We will accept bids for the project as soon as possible.”
Mr. Poole mentioned that the Township Committee has been collecting names of architects who might be interested in the project.
“Several people have suggested that we have a competition … where we would award the contract to the best design,” he said.
While he liked this idea, Mr. Poole said he was not sure how the other committee members would feel about it because it might take too long.
“We don’t want to waste time,” he said.
As part of an agreement between the Township Committee and the school board, the committee will lease the Valley Road Building from the board for the next 25 years. The committee’s 10-year-lease, at $1 a year, will run out this year.
Under the new lease agreement, an outside consultant will determine the rental value of the building and the township will pay that sum to the board. However, any capital improvements that Township Committee makes to the building will count as credit toward the rent.
The committee and the board plan to conduct a joint study of the Valley Road Building in the next 18 months. They will then decide together, within the next two years, whether all or part of the building should be replaced, undergo major renovations, or simply be maintained over the next 25 years.
The Township Committee will also redesign the 126-space Community Pool parking lot across the street from the proposed firehouse site. By squaring off the lot and reconfiguring it, the township could gain an extra 28 parking spaces to make up for the 20 it would lose after the new firehouse is built.
A new firehouse is needed to replace the Chambers Street station because traffic congestion in the busy downtown area is hindering fire-fighting response time. The Mercer Engine Company No. 3 would vacate the station and move to Witherspoon Street.
Proceeds from the sale of the firehouse would finance construction of the new firehouse, expected to cost approximately $1.8 million. The project is expected to take two years, township officials said.