Princeton Borough gives up on renegotiations with Nassau HKT

By Nick Norlen, Staff Writer
   After more than a year of negotiations has failed to yield a new consensus between the two sides, Princeton Borough Council has now decided to return to its original agreement with downtown developer Nassau HKT, Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi said this week.
   The decision is intended to move the project to completion, which would include the construction of Building C — the five-story mixed-use building slated for the Tulane Street parking lot, Mr. Bruschi said, noting that the new course of action does not preclude further negotiation between the two parties.
   Mr. Bruschi said the council decided at its last meeting to “jump-start the project” by essentially agreeing to disagree with Nassau HKT. “The other items will work themselves out. They ultimately can end up in litigation, but our hopes are we will continue having discussions,” he said. “To the extent that the project can move along under the terms of the original agreement, that’s what we’re asking NHKT to do.”
   However, Mr. Bruschi admitted that this avenue may necessitate third-party mediation between the two sides on points of contention, such as the long-debated rent commencement date.
   Because Nassau HKT’s construction permits expire in late August, he said, it would be in their best financial interest — if they intend to build — to begin by then so they don’t have to start the process over.
   ”The ball really right now is in … NHKT’s court,” Mr. Bruschi said.
   Nassau HKT Attorney Gary Green said Thursday that it’s the developer’s “goal and intention to start the building before the summer.”
   He added, “The first building got built and the garage got built. We’ve been working with the (borough) to take the necessary steps to start the third building.”
   Along with “the normal things you need to put a shovel in the ground,” there are other “more substantive issues with the borough” that he said can “be separated out and sort of resolved at the same time we’re moving forward with Building C.”
   He added, “Any sort of third-party resolution is only a last resort if you’re not able to make things work out,” he said.
   Mr. Bruschi said it will be “easier to have those discussions when we know we’re actually going to have a building and we’re on sound financial ground.
   ”I believe it’s going to get built, but I can certainly understand people having doubts,” he said.
   Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman said she is “more confident than not” that Nassau HKT will construct Building C.
   She said that although there were times during the “months and months” of negotiations that she thought the sides had reached an agreement “complete enough for us to proceed — it just didn’t work out that way.
   ”That’s not to say something might not happen in the interim,” she added.
   Though he emphasized that negotiation can continue, Mr. Bruschi said he doesn’t know how it would begin again.
   ”We’re chipping away so slowly at bringing the matters to closure that I think both sides are frustrated,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just better to look at alternative means to solve some of these things than to sit there and spend so much time and energy trying to hone in on little specific details.”
   Mayor Trotman said she hopes the borough’s new course of action yields progress.
   ”If we go back to the original agreement, we don’t have to concentrate on the outstanding issues,” she said. “If things hit a snag … we can always enter into mediation. And we go from there.”