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J. Press will tear down building

Nearly a year after Winter Storm Nemo forced the closing of the J. Press building, the classic men's clothier will demolish its historic York Street building.

J. Press's New York-based owners intended to renovate the mid-19th-century townhouse "bottom to top," store manager Jim Fitzgerald said last February, after New Haven's building department ordered the closing of 262 York Street. But on closer inspection, the company and City Hall determined that it has to come down.

“It is unsafe,” city building official Daniel O'Neill tells the New Haven Independent.

That brings J. Press to Plan B: demolition and rebuilding. Last February—after a 34-inch snowfall caused the roof to separate from the walls—Fitzgerald said that if necessary, J. Press would "replicate" the structure that began its life as the home of Cornelius Pierpont, a New Haven merchant.

Demolition, originally scheduled for November, will wait until January to avoid disrupting holiday shopping, Fitzgerald tells the Independent. The store, now in temporary quarters on College Street, will eventually occupy the new building.

In an e-mail last week, before O'Neill publicly declared the building unsafe, the New Haven Preservation Trust declared its opposition to "whole-scale demolition."

"Regardless of who occupies the structure, the Trust's goal is to advocate for the retention of as much of the building's historic fabric as possible," the preservation group wrote. Calling it "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 Trust questioned why, if the structure was unsafe, the city allowed it to remain standing throughout 2013.

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