Planning Board approves plans for new building project replacing Hopewell Valley Bistro &Inn

ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF

The construction for a new building that would replace the existing Hopewell Valley Bistro & Inn can now move forward after receiving approval from the Hopewell Borough Planning Board.

Preliminary and major site plan approval was granted by the Planning Board at its Jan. 5 meeting.

Board Chair Peter Macholdt, and board members Bob Donaldson, Brad Lyon, Jackie Perri, Shelby Tewell, Lou Young and Marylou Ferrara voted “yes” to approve the application.

“The premise of this application is to repurpose a building that is on the one hand obsolete and number two has lost the historical context that applied to the building. What we are proposing to do is to restore the building to its former glory of about 100 years ago,” said Gary Forshner, the applicant’s attorney. “The uses that are proposed are very similar to the uses at the building historically, but we are going to rebuild it in a way that makes it far more functional.”

The applicant, Genesis Investment Properties, plans to use the same building footprint of the Hopewell Valley Bistro & Inn at 15 E. Broad St. in Hopewell Borough.

The existing building goes back to 1890 and is located at the corner of East Broad Street and Seminary Avenue.

The applicant would demolish the existing building and shed, a one-story addition adjacent to the borough library, rear concrete walkways and curbing, wood fence and landscape wall.

The first floor of the proposed building would have a restaurant with a bar, a lounge and a dining room. The restaurant proposed will be 4,642 square feet and proposed seasonal outdoor dining area is expected to be 1,432 square feet.

Seating for the restaurant will be reduced from the total existing amount of 287 to the proposed 208, which includes the outdoor seating.

A kitchen, a wrap-around porch and restrooms are also proposed on the first floor, according to application documents.

The second floor would have two one-bedroom apartments, a dining area and a wrap-around dining porch. The third floor is proposed to have four one-bedroom apartments.

One of the six apartment units will be a moderate income unit. Behind the restaurant and at the rear of the building, eight parking spaces will be designated for on-site parking.

Six spaces will be designated for the residents in the one-bedroom apartments. For the two other spaces, one will be an employee parking space and a handicap accessible parking space for patrons.

Any visitors to the residents will utilize the on-street parking in the area, according to application documents.

The board granted variance relief for the applicant’s variance requests that included a variance to allow for six one-bedroom apartments where a maximum of three are permitted; a conditional use variance to permit a retail store exceeding 2,000 square feet; and a variance to exceed the allowable floor area ratio where 0.60 is permitted and 0.76 is proposed.

The applicant proposed to provide eight parking spaces at the rear of the building.

According to Michael Gale, vice president of Genesis Investment Properties, a maximum of 12 people is expected from the six one-bedroom apartments.

An employee shift size for normal days at the new building is expected to be no more 20 people.

Prior to receiving approval from the Planning Board, the topic of parking and parking supply would be the top topic of discussion at the public hearing on Jan. 5.

The required number of parking spaces for the proposal is 27 spaces and the proposed existing condition is eight spaces.

Board member Jackie Perri said she hopes that some place is found for the employee parking that is not on Seminary Avenue or in the specific location of the restaurant.

“That is one of the things that could be done to mitigate issue of what is going to happen when this restaurant opens. The question I have is I want you to be successful,” she said. “I want you to develop your property. But, I also think we have to be reasonable with the scale we are talking about, which is quite big. I think we do need to concern ourselves with the issues we already have on Seminary Avenue and the restaurants we have in close proximity.”

Gale agreed that it would be in their best interest as well to find a different place for employees to park.