J Press Plans Demolition

Paul Bass PhotosThe 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.

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posted by: A Contrarian on December 17, 2013  11:21am

Another victim of the disease of Deferred Maintenance.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on December 17, 2013  2:47pm

Horrors! This is truly a gem.
I doubt the replacement will be of the same quality.

Another step closer to becoming Stamford.

posted by: robn on December 17, 2013  2:50pm

Its hard to believe that a 3 story load bearing brick building is structurally unsound because of snow infiltration. Is this a ruse to build out the lot with a bigger building?

posted by: Bill Saunders on December 17, 2013  6:14pm

I am not buying it either Robn.

The Economic Development Interests are clearly more important than the Historic Preservation Interests here. 

I have never seen a building of this size, in current use, that could not be saved.  I call BS too.

posted by: A Contrarian on December 17, 2013  9:30pm

A Puzzlement.  How much bigger could a building be on that spot?  What about the addition—old Barrie shop?  And what will happen to the Fenn-Feinstein building next door?  Why couldn’t new construction at the rear provide additional space if wanted?

posted by: Colin M. Caplan on December 19, 2013  9:39pm

Let’s do what they do in Europe: support and save the facade while building a new superstructure in the rear. Hire Urban Minors to demo and recycle most materials since a crane will damage neighboring buildings. Or hire another engineer to create a feasible preservation alternative.

posted by: Bradley on December 19, 2013  10:45pm

This is a beautiful building and its demolition will be a real loss for the city. But, John Herzan should understand better than most people that a building owner may commit, in good faith, to restoring a building and thus avoiding demolition, but discover in the restoration process that more work needs to be done than the owner can afford.

posted by: future on December 20, 2013  7:47pm

Nightmare. How great it would have been for the community and the “brand” if they would preserve/conserve this building…supposedly one of the core values of the lifestyle this brand supposedly represents. And now a waiver of the rule giving the public time to speak out? Huh?
The building is irreplaceable. So easy to knock down. And once it is gone what does the brand have except fading memories. A new structure will not solve Onwards problems. J Press needs an owner who understands what it means to us and to American and sartorial history.
Will somebody please save these people from themselves.