Princeton Borough will soon have not one, but two Subway shops. The second one will be located on Nassau Street, not far from Hoagie Haven.
The former home of the Princeton Review at 252 Nassau Street will be expanded to become a 3,100-square-foot Subway shop. The chain has almost 37,000 stores in 100 countries.
Despite not having enough parking on the site, the Borough zoning board approved a variance for the project. The owners of the new Subway shop are the same people who own the Subway shop on Witherspoon Street that was just renovated.
Business owners in the neighborhood protested the plan at the recent zoning board hearing, arguing that traffic in the area is already a nightmare.
“This is a very vibrant area and parking is at a premium,” restauranteur Jack Morrison said. “What we need is a comprehensive parking plan. This will be a detriment to the neighborhood. We don’t have the parking. The area is already packed with cars. The simple fact is that the old West Coast Video and Olive May’s are being used as a parking lot where sometimes 40 or 50 cars are parked. Some day those sites are going to be developed and come online, and those cars will come into the community as well.”
Morrison noted that the Subway’s square footage will be as big as Nassau Street Seafood, the Blue Point Grill, and Small World Coffee combined. “We will basically be a parking lot for the Subway,” he said of his business.
Jay Mirinov, owner of Jay’s Cycles, said people abuse his parking lot so they can stop and eat or pick up food at shops across the street. At one point he had to block his lot off with a cable. “There is not enough parking to run a store like that in that area,” he said.
Richard Ryan of the Ivy Inn expressed concerns about the Subway competing with established businesses in the neighborhood.
“There will be a dilution of the existing businesses. We already have sandwich shops in the area,” he said. “I worry about a chain coming in and taking away from something people worked hard for.”
Mark Solomon, the lawyer for the Subway owners, said the 25-seat Subway will reduce the parking demand. He argued that an office in the space would result in a higher demand for parking.
Hopewell-based planner Tamera Lee said the Princeton Review building will be expanded so that the building is consistent with the neighborhood, with the building reaching the edge of the sidewalk like other stores. She argued the business would be more visible and more economically viable with the expansion, and said an active business is better for area businesses than “a vacant, dark hole in the wall.”
“Everyone’s boat floats higher when there is more activity, more life,” added Solomon.
Lee also said the Subway brand will target a young population that wants healthy food.
“Young people like students, young people with children, and young people who are still dependent on their parents are not going to be in cars,” she said, adding that a bike rack could be placed in front of the store.
But business owners said the car traffic already in the area proves that plenty of people drive to shops in the neighborhood like Hoagie Haven.
Zoning board members shrugged and said there is nothing they can do about the parking situation in the neighborhood. They called on the new governing body of the united Princeton to solve the parking issue.
Michael Floyd cast the lone vote against approving the plan. “You’ve got to take a stand somewhere,” he said.
But Board Member Russell McFarlan said prohibiting food stores in the area was beyond the board’s reach. “If we deny the application, we are condemning the building to wreck and ruin,” he said.