Hopewell Borough Planning Board approves replacement of Hopewell Bistro

“Congratulations! Let’s get that restaurant open!” Board Chair Peter Macholdt exclaimed January 5 after the Hopewell Borough Planning Board approved the application of Genesis Hospitality for construction of a new restaurant at the site of the old Hopewell Bistro on 15 East Broad Street. 

Genesis Hospitality operates several upscale restaurants in the area including Princeton’s Peacock Inn and Lambertville Station. 

Gary Forshner, attorney for the applicant, briefly summarized what was presented in the December meeting, “We showed you a number of pictures from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and what we’re proposing to do is rebuild the Hopewell Bistro to look substantially more like it did 100 years ago. We’re going to rebuild it in a way that is far more functional.” 

Forshner said the project required only modest modifications to variances for building the structure where it is today. The building will also have six one-bedroom housing units above the restaurant, and one of those will be designated as a moderate income affordable housing unit. Sufficient parking exists to support the new business and housing.

James Kyle, Professional Planner, testified next stating that the project benefited the objectives set forth by the Hopewell Planning Board with a structure that fits in better with the area and is mixed use. 

Kyle said the six bedroom apartments above the restaurant offer, “a less expensive option for a younger person, or an older person who wants to stay in the Borough but not necessarily stay in a large home. The deed restricted for an affordable housing credit for moderate income fulfills a Constitutional obligation for the Borough.” 

“In terms of the increase of floor area, there is a benefit to the board. The building is larger, but the number of seats will be smaller and mirror use that exists there today,” said Kyle. 

Boardmember Jackie Perri asked: “How did you account for their traffic?”

Karl Pehnke, traffic engineer, responded: “We observed on a typical Saturday and a typical Sunday of summer. We observed what the demand was at any one period versus the supply.”

“In the real world, let’s forget about our ordinances for a moment. My question is, when you do your business model, what would your parking requirement be on a Friday or Saturday night?” Perri asked 

“We haven’t approached it from that angle,” answered Pehnke. He said the restaurant was functioning at the time and the new restaurant will have fewer seats and therefore less of a parking demand. 

Perri pointed out that the new restaurant may realistically do better business and therefore require more spaces than the restaurant it is replacing. 

The Board then opened for public comment. 

Melissa Cookman of 35B East Broad Street said, “Happy New Year Everybody! Was the study done during Covid? Where will the employees be parking? All due respect to the current Bistro, I imagine with this kind of restaurant going in that a lot more people will be dining here.”

Pehnke answered, “Friday August 6th and 7th. Everything had come back and people were enjoying the downtown. It was a relatively good snapshot.”

Cookman added, “August is the deadest month in New Jersey. Everyone leaves their towns.”

Other members of the community showed overwhelming support for the construction of the new restaurant and apartments, even if it means more filled parking spaces around town. 

Matt Webster of 12 Burton Ave said, “Throw my hat in the ring with giving my support to this new restaurant and apartment facility.”

Sunay Shah of 12 1st Street said that he expects the new restaurant to be a destination that draws more people into town, benefiting existing businesses and the community. 

Frank Mahood said, ”I live three houses down from the Bistro at 22 Seminary Avenue. Frequently my driveway is blocked, but that is immaterial. I was horrified when the Borough allowed the previous owners to desecrate the building with the tudor siding. The new building will only add to the character of Hopewell Borough, and I am in favor of it.”

After closing the public session, the Board had questions about if dumpsters would cause any obstruction during the demolition, and if the demolition itself posed any threat to the library. Forshner said that dumpsters would not be in any streets and that the demolition would adhere to the strict standards of a Demolition Permit. 

The Board then voted unanimously to approve the application so that Genesis Hospitality can move forward with demolishing the current structure and rebuilding a historically accurate representation of the original building in its place.

The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for February 2.

The featured photo is one of the renderings submitted with the Site Plan application to the Hopewell Borough Planning Board. It can be found on the Hopewell Borough website.

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