Developer proposes apartments for Keystone Watchcase building

A Brooklyn developer has an agreement of sale to buy the building on Pavilion Avenue for an undisclosed price.
A Brooklyn developer has an agreement of sale to buy the building on Pavilion Avenue for an undisclosed price. (RACHEL WISNIEWSKI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 30, 2014

A proposal to convert the historic watchcase building in Riverside into apartments was rolled out Tuesday before the township Planning Board, which may vote on the project this summer.

Township Administrator Meghan Jack said Simshabs Partners gave a presentation to the board but still needed to provide more details on how 64 apartments will be carved out of the seven-story building and on where parking spaces will be. She said the next meeting was tentatively scheduled for July 17.

Simshabs Partners, based in Brooklyn, has an agreement of sale to buy the building on Pavilion Avenue from an engineering firm that bought it in 1988 and that occupies the first floor. The sale price has not been disclosed.

Alice Smith, president of the Riverside Historical Society, attended the meeting and asked the developer to consider allowing the society's museum to remain in the watchcase building after the sale goes through. The current owners, Lippincott, Jacobs & Gouda, had donated the second-floor space to the historical society for the museum, which is divided into rooms that depict town history. The rest of the building is empty.

"The museum could remain as part of a display in the building," Smith said, adding that the exhibits include artifacts from the watchcase factory, black-and-white photographs of the workers, an array of pocket watches, and an oil portrait of the founder, Theophilus Zurbrugg, who also was an inventer and industrialist. She said the developer, Rafi Weiss, agreed to discuss the museum at a future date.

Weiss could not be reached for comment.

The Keystone Watchcase building was the world's largest producer of gold- and silver-plated, engraved cases for pocket watches before it closed in 1956, according to the historical society.

Smith said the second floor likely would be needed for the apartments, but she said the historical society would consider using space in the basement for the exhibits if that is available. "I'm encouraged, but it's going to be a waiting process," she said. "We may have to develop a plan with other options, if we have to move. But I hope it doesn't come to that."


jhefler@phillynews.com

856-779-3224 @JanHefler

www.inquirer.com/burlcobuzz

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