11 September, 1992
Plan would ease way for more restaurants
By Laurie Lynn Strasser
The Princeton Borough Council Thursday night recommended a zoning change that would allow more restaurants in the central business district and facilitate sale of the Chambers Street firehouse for top dollar.
“I’m predisposed toward more sit-down restaurants, particularly in the center of town,” borough May-or Marvin Reed said “I feel there is a shortage, a paucity of good restaurants.”
The council also hired Coldwell Banker to market and auction the firehouse. The Wayne-based foot, chosen from “at least four others,” will be paid with a 5 percent cut from the sale, targeted for Oct. 27, said Auction Division Manager Joseph Zidek. Coldwell Banker will handle all other expenses, except two public notices.
The borough is responsible for auctioning the deteriorating structure because it is located there. But Princeton Township also has a stake in the transaction because Mercer Engine Company No. 3 will move from the Chambers Street station to a new home on Witherspoon Street in the township.
Previously, all three Princeton fire companies had been based in the borough. Because of the relocation, the two municipalities are in the process of formally establishing a joint department, even though already collaborate fully on fire protection.
The Princeton Township Committee had pushed for an official appraisal, while the council preferred to spend the money on marketing. The two municipalities compromised at a July meeting to accept an informal judgement.
An appraiser from Coldwell Banker will evaluate the building, but deliver “an opinion” rather than a formal estimate, Mr. Zidek said.
Although use as retail or office space wont be ruled out, selling the building as a restaurant stands a good chance of drawing the best sale price from bidders. The building’s unique architecture and prime location lend themselves to such a use, except for one problem — the structure lies an undersized lot.
To make the property more at-tractive as a restaurant from a zoning standpoint, the council unanimously authorized planning attorney Gerald Mueller to draft by Tuesday an ordinance that lifts a parking restriction for food and drink establishments on undersized lots.
The firehouse lot is just over 3,000 square feet. The size limit is 5,000.
Borough zoning has discouraged more restaurants since the 1970s, Mr. Zidek said.
It says first-floor restaurants on undersized lots do not have to supply on-site parking if they are sandwiched between office or retail uses.
The zoning change would permit three-story restaurants to take ad-vantage of the parking exemption.
If the Zoning Board and Princeton Township adopt the change, the firehouse would have to supply 22 spaces, but they could be off-site.
Mayor Reed expects the township and Zoning Board to be sympathetic toward the change. He said he will consult Township Committee members today about the borough’s plans. The board already has indicated a predisposition toward enabling mom restaurants in the central business district, he said.
The zoning change could be in place by Sept. 22, Councilman David Goldfarb projected.
The change would enable 11 other properties besides the firehouse to become restaurants. Most, such as Hamilton Jewelers and successful banks and real estate brokers, probably would prefer to remain as they are, Mayor Reed said, but “three or four” might consider the switch.