The Hopewell Borough Planning Board meeting scheduled for the evening of September 1, 2021 progressed with an air of uncertainty and anticipation as flash flood warnings blared across everyone’s smartphones and residents were urged not to travel and to shelter in place for safety. The rains being pushed into our area by former Hurricane Ida had already begun, and were beginning to become quite substantial in the Hopewell Valley area. As the zoom meeting got underway, the minutes from the last meeting and current vouchers were approved in short order. During the allotted public comment portion of the meeting, no issues or concerns were raised.
The potential future of the Hopewell Valley Bistro and Inn was revealed when Michael Gale of Genesis Investment Properties was granted a few minutes to put forth a presentation. Genesis has recently reached an agreement to purchase the Hopewell Valley Bistro and Inn and is looking forward to working with the Planning Board to gain approval on their plan to “demolish the existing structure and construct a new structure that is code-compliant, functional, and historically relevant.”
According to a subsequent statement from Gale to MercerMe: “The purchase is moving forward pending receipt of final unappealable approvals from the Council. We have not crossed the finish line yet with respect to the purchase.We hope that the approval process will be completed before the end of the year.”
The Genesis Hospitality division currently owns and operates The Washington Crossing Inn, The Yardley Inn, and the Peacock Inn. Additionally, Genesis owns Chez Alice Patisserie, Bread Boutique, and Proof Restaurant in Princeton, as well as the DiBartolo Bakeries in South Jersey.
The conceptual plan put forth in the presentation involved providing for an upscale restaurant and bar on the first floor with a wrap-around outside porch. The second floor would have additional dining space in the front half, leading to a wrap-around front/side balcony which would offer outdoor dining. The rear half of the second floor would consist of two apartments. The third floor would then be constructed to offer an additional four apartments.
The octagonal structure currently on the Hopewell Library side of the building, which is not an original feature of The Inn, would not be reconstructed under the redevelopment plans, but would make way for the wrap-around porch and second floor balcony features. Genesis did investigate improvements to the existing structure, but upon their analysis of the effort involved in bringing everything up to modern building codes and life safety requirements, decided that demolition and new construction to be the best option, according to Gale.
Planning Board member Jacqueline Perri questioned the timeframe of the proposed project, and Gale responded that it was very much dependent on “needed approvals, plans, etc.” but they were looking to move fairly quickly. Council member Ryan Kennedy, who also sits on the Board, noted that it was “very helpful that Genesis had started early in involving the Hopewell Planning Board in the process.” Kennedy also inquired as to how “high end” the restaurant would be, Gale responded that they intended the restaurant to be “somewhere between The Washington Crossing Inn and the Peacock Inn.”
This concluded the presentation from Genesis. It was noted that the agenda item regarding discussions of 27 E. Broad Street had been requested to be delayed until the next (October) Board meeting.
The resolution regarding an application for 19 W. Broad Street was up next. Known as the “Runyon House” it was built in 1750, making it one of the oldest houses in Hopewell. (Click here for a self-guided architectural walking tour offered by the Hopewell Library.) The preliminary and final major site plan with variances was summarized by Brad Marcum. The plan is to create four duplex units, resulting in eight residential units. The Runyon house will be converted into two units, two existing barns will be converted into two duplex units each, and a third new barn will be constructed to provide two more units, for a total of eight. A one-way driveway is planned to provide access to the new units, with the entrance on West Broad Street and the exit on South Greenwood Avenue between the post office and Hopewell Theater. The attorney for the applicants made some legal clarifications before the vote proceeded, resulting in a unanimous “yes” vote from the board.
The meeting concluded at approximately 7:37pm with Michele Hovan once again pleading with residents to stay safe and avoid travelling.
Edited 9/25 at 11:54am to correct the name of the storm to Ida.