Momo Brothers Propose New Pizzeria, Apartments On Witherspoon Street in Princeton

The site at 70-74 Witherspoon St, as it exists currently in 2022 (image via Google Streetview)

Raoul and Carlo Momo, Princeton residents, and owners of restaurants including ‘Teresa Caffe‘ and ‘Eno Terra‘, have submitted an application to the town to redevelop the building that houses their ‘Terra Momo Bread Company’ on Witherspoon Street (map). The new building would be highly environmentally-sustainable, and would provide a new sit-down restaurant and homes at a highly-walkable location in downtown Princeton, but the proposal has already drawn criticism from preservationists who object to redevelopment of the existing building.

The Momo proposal is for a a “full-service pizzeria / wine bar and artisanal bakery / market”, with three apartments on the upper levels. The new building would be built to a maximum of three stories, on the same footprint as the existing structure. The site at 70-74 Witherspoon Street is at the intersection with Paul Robeson Place, directly across the street from the Princeton Public Library. The existing building (see photo at top) already has two living units on the upper levels, so there would be just one additional unit if the proposal is approved.

Although the application materials published to the Princeton Planning Department website are incomplete at the time of writing, ‘Walkable Princeton’ is able to provide further details as to the nature of the redevelopment proposal. The proposed new three-story structure would be built right up to the wall of the next-door property, which is the ‘Elements / ‘Mistral’ restaurant complex. Two 1-bed apartments of ~1,000 sq ft would be on the second floor, with one 2-bed apartment of ~1,300 sq ft on the third floor. A planted ‘green roof’ would top the building, and ivy-covered trellises would be a feature throughout. Other ‘green’ features would include energy-star appliances, rainwater recycling, and new bicycle parking.

Cross-section of proposed redevelopment at 70-74 Witherspoon St

A bakery would remain at the entrance level, to replace the existing ‘Terra Momo Bread Company’, but would be supplemented by the pizza restaurant with 94 seats. These seats would be split between an indoor space and an outdoor screened patio eating area:

Layout of proposed first floor of Momo bakery / pizzeria at 70-74 Witherspoon St

To accommodate the new layout, the existing building would be torn down and replaced with a new, energy-efficient building. This is where the controversy begins, because the new building would be quite different from what is there presently, although, arguably in keeping with the contemporary style of the adjacent Elements Restaurant and the Hillier-designed Princeton Public Library on the other side of the road. Plans show a new building with extensive ivy-covered trellises fronting onto the street.

Proposed front layout of new Momo Bakery / Pizzeria on Witherspoon Street

As one of his last actions before taking off for a new job in Annapolis MD, Princeton’s former chief planner, Michael LaPlace, made sure that the Momo proposal was referred to the Princeton Historic Preservation Commission for a ‘courtesy review’. The site is not in any local historic district, and is therefore not under the jurisdiction of the Historic Preservation Commission. However, it is near two historic districts – the downtown Princeton historic district and the Witherspoon-Jackson historic district. Preservationists have argued that the existing structure is very much historic, and ought to have been included in the Witherspoon-Jackson Historic District. They are assembling materials to attempt to block the Momo proposal in favor of a design that retains some or all of the existing building.

Old-time image of 70-74 Witherpoon St, via Princeton Historic Preservation Commission

In recent months, preservationists have delivered negative ‘courtesy reviews’ about a proposed inclusionary housing development on Wiggins St (which was approved) and proposed townhouses on Linden Lane (which have effectively been rejected). The Planning Board has not yet scheduled a hearing to consider the proposed restaurant redevelopment on Witherspoon Street, but when it comes up, it is likely to be controversial.

View the planning application at the Princeton NJ Planning Department website at the link below:

Planning Application for 70-74 Witherspoon St

This entry was posted in architecture, Density, Downtown Vibrancy, People, Placemaking, planning, Princeton, Sustainability and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Momo Brothers Propose New Pizzeria, Apartments On Witherspoon Street in Princeton

  1. WJ resident says:

    Are you sure this building isn’t in the Witherspoon Jackson Historic District? 70-74 Witherspoon was included in the consultant’s report for the Witherspoon Jackson Historic District. In fact, it was first on the list of surveyed properties, and on the map it was shown as a contributing property. It dates to at least 1890. It is still included in the building descriptions on the borough’s website for the district.

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