The J. Press building on York Street is set to come down after all.
The Yale-oriented high-end men’s clothing store vacated its 262 York St. home in February ago after the city declared the building structurally unsound. The final damage resulted from the weight of snow dumped by Winter Storm Nemo.
At first the company considered repairing the 153-year-old building, according to manager James Fitzgerald. Then it determined the building is beyond repair, he said.
City Acting Building Official Daniel O’Neill said Tuesday that he hasn’t yet issued the permit for demolition. But he has decided the building must come down.
“It is going to happen,” O’Neill said. “It is unsafe.”
Because of that condition, O’Neill said, he granted J. Press a waiver from a rule that would have delayed the demolition for 90 days to give the public more time to weigh in. That rule affects buildings, like J. Press’s, that appear on local historic lists.
“Built in the then-fashionable French Second Empire style of architecture, the building originally served as the residence for Cornelius Pierpont, a successful merchant who operated a grocery on Broadway during the late 19th century,” according to a New Haven Preservation Trust write-up. J. Press has occupied the space since 1907.
The original plan was to start demolition in November. Then J. Press decided to wait until after the holidays in order to cause less disruption for shoppers and neighboring businesses, Fitzgerald said in a conversation in the store’s temporary rented quarters at 260 College St. He said demolition is now scheduled to begin in January. He expects the whole process, including clean-up, to take a month, during which time the sidewalk will be closed off. The Jack Willis store has vacated a neighboring storefront and relocated around the corner on Broadway.
“It’s sad to see it go,” Fitzgerald said of the building. He said J. Press will build a new home on the property. It doesn’t have architectural details of the new building to discuss at this point, he said.
Preservationists, too, are sad to see the old building go. The New Haven Preservation Trust opposes the demolition, it said in an email it recently circulated to supporters.
“The J. Press building is a rare example of an urban townhouse in the downtown area, and an important architectural component of York Street’s streetscape and historical environment,” the email reads.
Preservation Trust staffer John Herzan, who wrote the email, said in a conversation Thursday morning that the trust believes in conserving historic properties whenever possible.
“Otherwise, we live in Disneyland,” Herzan said.
He questioned why, if the building is so structurally unsound that it must all come down, the city has allowed it to stand through 2013.
City officials are still working with J. Press on the details of the demolition plan, according to O’Neill. A meeting on the subject has been scheduled for Thursday with J. Press, Yale University Properties (which owns the adjacent building), and city officials.