Planning Board approves storage building conversion into restaurant

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The Lawrence Township Planning Board gave the green light to a proposal to convert a garage and storage building at the rear of the Lawrenceville Fuel Co. into a restaurant at its March 21 meeting.

Hullfish Real Estate Co. LLC applied for preliminary and final site plan approval to convert the storage building at 14 Gordon Ave. into the Marmalade luncheonette, which will be operated by Joanne Canady-Brown. She is the owner of the Gingered Peach bakery at 2 Gordon Ave.

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Engineer Russell Smith, who represented Hullfish Real Estate Co. LLC, to the Planning Board at the initial public hearing Feb. 7, testified that the parking lot at the Lawrenceville Fuel Co., located at 14 Gordon Ave., would be paved to create 60 parking spaces.

Of those 60 parking spaces, 27 would be set aside for the restaurant and 10 would be set aside for the bakery. The rest will be used by nearby businesses that already share the parking lot, he said.

Architect Benjamin Grace described the 2,600-square-foot garage and storage building as “utilitarian.” There will be one entrance door into the building. The seven garage bay doors will be replaced with aluminum and glass storefront panels that will be fixed in place. This will allow natural light into the building, he said.

There will be seating for 60 patrons inside, Grace said. There will be outdoor seating on the patio, to include 10 tables. An 18-inch-tall wall that surrounds the patio can be used for seating for the tables, in addition to chairs, he said.

“This is an adaptive re-use of an existing structure into a community asset. That is the overall goal of the project,” Grace said.

Canady-Brown, who plans to rent the renovated building from Hullfish Real Estate Co. LLC, told the Planning Board at its Feb. 7 meeting that her bakery has run out of space at 2 Gordon Ave., and needs to expand.

“I can’t fit another person, another bag of flour, another cinnamon bun or another mixer (in the 1,200-square-foot Gingered Peach space),” she said.

Canady-Brown said she approached Hullfish Real Estate Co. for more space, and was offered the garage and storage building. It is more than twice the size of the space she has been renting down the street in her present location, and would allow her to move the bakery operations to the new location, she said.

There are no plans to close the Gingered Peach, Canady-Brown said.

Canady-Brown said she makes empanadas and sandwiches for off-site events, such as Lawrenceville Main Street’s Music in the Park summer concerts, and Communiversity in Princeton.

Canady-Brown said her regular customers have asked her for more of the food that she offers at off-site events, and it could be done in the new space.

“Marmalade will be my modern-day interpretation of what I think the new American luncheonette will look like,” Canady-Brown said.

Marmalade would be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for breakfast and lunch, she said. It would fill a much-needed hole by offering quality breakfasts and lunches, made with quality ingredients that the business can control, she said.

Wrapping up the application at the March 21 meeting, traffic engineer Elizabeth Dolan testified that during the morning peak hour, there would not be any conflict between cars entering and leaving the Starbucks coffee shop on the corner of Main Street/Route 206 and Gordon Avenue. She represented the applicant.

The morning peak hour is 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. There were 90 vehicles entering Starbucks from Gordon Avenue and 12 leaving the coffee shop from Gordon Avenue. The rest of the vehicles exited onto Main Street, Dolan wrote in the traffic study report.

There were 66 vehicles entering James Street from Gordon Avenue – across the street from the driveway entrance to the proposed luncheonette – and 57 vehicles exiting James Street onto Gordon Avenue. At no time was the proposed driveway entrance to Marmalade blocked, Dolan said.

“Based on our traffic counts and observations, there is ample capacity on Gordon Avenue to accommodate peak breakfast and lunch activity at the proposed restaurant,” Dolan wrote in her traffic study.

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