Borough selects garage developer

Nassau HKT Associates LLC is the borough’s first choice.

By: Jennifer Potash
   Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed announced Friday that Nassau HKT Associates LLC is the borough’s choice to develop the downtown parking garage project.
   Nassau HKT Associates is the first choice based on the financial package offered to the borough, Mayor Reed said.
   In April, the council narrowed the list of five applicants down to two — Nassau HKT Associates and Keating Development Corp. of Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
   The project includes a five-floor parking garage, up to 70 residential units, a 10,000-square-foot retail space for a possible food market, additional retail space for small businesses and a new plaza.
   The garage is on target for completion by late October 2003, borough officials say.
   "We’ve got a good chance of being under way by October," Mayor Reed said. The Tulane Street side of the project would be completed later, in December 2004.
   The Princeton Public Library, located on a site adjacent to the garage, plans to open its new three-story building in December 2003.
   The development project calls for a five-floor garage on what is now the Park & Shop lot, with a minimum of 483 spaces. New small retail shops aimed at local artisans or mom-and-pop style businesses will be located on the Spring Street side of the garage.
   In front of the garage, facing Witherspoon Street, will be a new apartment building with 18 to 20 apartments ranging from luxury to affordable for low- and moderate-income families under the Council for Affordable Housing guidelines, Mayor Reed said.
   Filling out the Park & Shop site will be a new plaza.
   On the Tulane Street parking lot, a new building likely will house a food market of between 8,500 and 10,000 square feet, with four floors of residential units on the top. There could be as many as 50 apartments, the mayor said.
   "It’s not going to be a supermarket," Mayor Reed said. Potential occupants include Kings Markets, Trader Joe’s and Dean & Deluca, the mayor said.
   The future of the small borough-owned metered lot off Witherspoon Street behind the Nassau Street shops and J. Mclaughlin and Community Liquors will be decided at a later date, Mayor Reed said.
   A proposal to use a bridge over Spring Street to link a garage parking deck in the present Park & Shop lot to parking atop the commercial building on Tulane Street has been dropped, as has a plan to place parking underneath the plaza, Mayor Reed said, citing the expense.
   Office space also was taken out of the plan as there was a far greater demand for apartments downtown and commercial space tends to add more peak-hour traffic, Mayor Reed said.
   Many of the details, such as the number of residential units and the size of the retail spaces, are still to be worked out, Mayor Reed said.
   The project will not be a liability to borough taxpayers, Mayor Reed said. The borough’s parking revenues will cover the debt service on the garage and if there is a shortfall, payments from the developer and taxes from the residential and retail space will cover the remainder, Mayor Reed said.
   Nassau HKT Associates is comprised of four entities.
   Robert S. Powell, a former Princeton Borough councilman and a partner at Vandeventer Avenue-based Nassau Capital Associates LLC, will serve as the senior project executive for the borough’s development.
   Mr. Powell is the former president and CEO of DKM Properties Corp. of Trenton, a private real estate developer and investment firm that built the Capital Center in Trenton, the Princeton Pike Corporate Center in Lawrence, the Windsor Green Shopping Center in West Windsor and the Cherry Valley Country Club in Montgomery.
   "Bob Powell’s heart is in Princeton," Mayor Reed said. "He will do not only what is best for himself but what is best for Princeton."
   S. Hekemian Kasparian Troast LLC of Paramus will be the project manager and handle the construction of the development. The Troast Group has constructed approximately 65 million square feet of office, retail, parking and commercial projects throughout New Jersey since its founding in 1928.
   LDR International of Columbia, Md., will provide the design and planning services for the project. The firm completed projects in Englewood and was responsible for urban development plans at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and a project in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
   The architect will be Minno & Wasko of Lambertville, with senior partner David Minno leading the design team. The majority of the firm’s work has focused on housing developments along the Hudson River waterfront in New Jersey. The firm also was responsible for the downtown redevelopment plan in Cranford.
   The Princeton Borough Council and Mayor Reed are expected to continue the negotiations to finalize a developer’s agreement with Nassau HKT Associates. The goal is to have the agreement signed by the end of June.
   Councilman Roger Martindell said a number of significant issues need to be resolved, such as the size of the buildings and whether the borough sells or leases the land to the developer.
   Councilman David Goldfarb agreed the council has a lot of work still to do, but said it can be accomplished "so we have a project we’re all happy with."
   The council vote naming Nassau HKT Associates is scheduled for tonight’s meeting. During closed-session discussions, no one appeared to object to naming Nassau HKT Associates as the first choice, said Councilman Joseph O’Neill.
   The developer will present a concept plan for the project and discuss the financial details with the council at a public meeting June 5.
   The public is encouraged to participate in the process and give feedback to the council, Councilman Martindell said.
   Princeton Future, the nonprofit organization that played a large role in shaping the garage proposal, will be invited to all the meetings for its opinions on the new plan, Mayor Reed said.
   Should negotiations with Nassau HKT Associates fall through, the borough can return to one of the four other top firms that submitted proposals, Mayor Reed said.
   "We didn’t rule out any of them because they were flaky," he said. "I’m sure they wouldn’t rule us out because they weren’t our first choice."