PRINCETON: Decision on restaurant for old post office still pending

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The former post office was constructed in 1932

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
A long night in front of the Princeton Planning Board ended Thursday without a vote for real estate businessman David Eichler, who must wait until the end of September to learn if he can put a restaurant in the old Palmer Square Post Office.
The more than three-hour-and-30-minute hearing examined Eichler’s plan to have Triumph Brewing Co. relocate from Nassau Street into a vacant, Georgian Revival style building from the 1930s that Eichler intends to improve, yet maintain its historic character.
For instance, he has proposed putting a new glass entrance, on Palmer Square East, where the old loading dock is, project architect Michael Mills testified. Mills said it would create a “more welcoming façade.”
Later, traffic consultant Georges Jacquemart told the Board that based on studies he did, there was “ample parking capacity” in the immediate area, especially in the nearby garage on Chambers Street.
But a decision by the planning board, on whether to approve or reject the proposal, will have to wait until Sept. 28, the date of the next hearing.
Eichler sat through the meeting, the continuation of a July 13 hearing that ended prematurely because of a power outage, in the Witherspoon Hall municipal building, on a stormy night. He has partnered with Triumph’s founder, Adam Rechnitz, the son of Monmouth County philanthropists Joan and Robert Rechnitz. His brew pub has been in town for 22 years, with Rechnitz, having lived in Princeton for a time before moving back to Red Bank, where he is from.
During the hearing, Triumph representatives discussed restaurant operations, including the times of food and other deliveries, including the type of trucks they come in. Of those vehicles, only one is an 18-wheel-tractor-trailer, used to deliver the malted barley for making beer. According to Triumph, the truck comes once per quarter.
The Post Office had been home in Palmer Square since the 1930s but moved to Nassau Street, sharing a space with convenience store 7-Eleven, beginning in 2015. Eichler won the bidding for the property by beating out other suitors, including Palmer Square Management.
Palmer Square Management is not opposing the project, but its lawyer urged the board to require that a directional sign, located on the south side of the building, be maintained. The sign points motorists to the Nassau Inn entrance, with attorney, Stuart B. Dember of the Fox Rothschild law firm calling it “detrimental if this sign is removed.” He said the board should, as a condition of an approval it gives Eichler, require the sign to stay where it is.
Rich Goldman, Eichler’s lawyer, offered that the issue could not be dealt with in the middle of a hearing.
“We’re going to talk about it,” said Goldman, in adding it was something he didn’t expect to be a problem.
The Triumph-to Palmer Square-proposal has its critics, including Scott Sipprelle, a former Congressional candidate and ex-hedge fund manager turned venture capitalist. Sipprelle, who lives in Palmer Square, is an official objector to the project, and sat at Thursday’s hearing with his wife and parents. Sipprelle’s lawyer, Chad Warnken, told the board that the proposal is “too large,” a sentiment that Sipprelle’s mother, Linda, who also lives in the Square, echoed later in the hearing during public comment.
But Gab Carbone, owner of the Bent Spoon, the ice cream store in Palmer Square, told the board that she was “in complete support” of Triumph moving in. She said the brew pub would be a “vibrant and welcome addition.”