PRINCETON — Princeton Common Council members learned Monday night that safely razing a 130-year-old building on East State Street could be an initial cash outlay of more than $250,000 for the City of Princeton.
Court-ordered demolition work begins Tuesday on the IOOF Building at 118 East State Street. City Attorney Jason Spindler reported that he's negotiating with attorney Roman Ricker, who represents Halfrack Properties LLC, regarding reimbursement of expenses.
"We've received a proposal," Spindler told the council, but said no agreement has been reached. The reimbursement could involve conveying some other properties owned by the company, which purchased about a dozen downtown Princeton buildings over the past decade.
Common Council member Sheri Greene said the estimated demolition cost alone is $252,300. Jeff Guisewite Inc. is contracted to do the demo work.
Spindler said two engineering studies of the building were conducted before it was declared an unsafe structure. The council didn't have an estimate of cost for those studies, yet.
Among claims submitted for payment Monday night were two payments to owners of properties adjacent to the vacant building. The owner of Cricket's Pool Room was reimbursed $7,853 for lost revenue for the week, since the properties near the building were ordered evacuated. Princeton Presbyterian Church was also to be reimbursed $292.20 for lost use of the church building at the corner of State and Prince Streets.
Councilman Greg Wright asked whether the property owner was informed earlier of what measures they could take to make the building safe, before the city got involved. "This is obviously going to be a major expense," he noted.
Princeton Fire Territory Chief Mike Pflug said the floor joists of the building are rotted away, and noted that the limestone mortar of the building is so unstable that it can be dislodged with a finger.
"Welcome to downtown Princeton," Wright noted of the age of many buildings around the square.
Pflug said the cost of repairing the building would far outweigh its worth, and it is a safety risk.
Inquiring about the timeline for getting some reimbursement for the cost, Wright noted that Halfrack Properties has saved some of the buildings around the square that otherwise wouldn't have been saved. "I know sometimes you can't save them, but I just hate to lose another building..."
Halfrack Properties has restored The Palace Cafe building, a building at the corner of South Main and East Broadway, stabilized a wall on the former JC Penney building, restored a building on the east side of the square, another building on the south side of the square, and made use of the former Citizens Bank building at the corner of North Hart and West Broadway as the headquarters for Onsite OHS. The company also owns the former Greek's Candy Store building at the corner of North Hart and West State streets, among other properties.