New Images Of Princeton Hospital Site Plan

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Townhouses along Franklin Avenue in proposed AvalonBay development on Princeton hospital site. The parking structure at the end of the service drive is visible on the right side (Click to expand)


New images of the redesigned AvalonBay apartment complex, which is proposed for the former Princeton hospital site on Witherspoon Street, were presented last night to the Princeton Planning Board. The plan, which represents one of the largest new walkable housing developments in Princeton in recent years, features two apartment buildings and three townhouse buildingsUpdate: we now have a video showing a 3D walk-through of the site, which you can see here.

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Proposed AvalonBay apartment complex and new park, seen from the corner of Witherspoon and Franklin. (Click to expand)

For those interested in exactly what was discussed, we did a minute-by-minute live-tweet at our twitter page @walkprinceton. Municipal committee heads reported to the Planning Board, before the AvalonBay team presented details of the site plan. There was no time at this meeting for cross-examination or public comment.


Proposed new park at AvalonBay apartments on Witherspoon and Franklin, seen from the air. The kids’ play area is the checkered section on the right. (Click to expand.)

One interesting exchange, involving Wanda Gunning and Marvin Reed related to what play equipment for kids would go in the new park. The play area in the park will be 14,000 sq feet. It emerged that AvalonBay have not decided what play equipment would go there. They want to work with the Planning Board on this question. Marvin Reed mentioned that there was an issue about whether the play equipment should target 3-5 year old children, or 6-8 year old kids. Wanda Gunning suggested, quite rightly, that members of the public would probably have some ideas! If you want to have your say about what play equipment goes in the new park, you should probably plan to attend a Planning Board meeting or write to a Council member.

AvalonBay plan to protect five mature trees at the proposed park: one magnolia, two maples, and two honey locusts. (The pedestrian paths have been modified to save the trees.) In addition to this, there will be substantial new plantings, including plane trees along Witherspoon St, Princeton elms along Franklin Avenue and zelkova trees in the mews behind the town houses. AvalonBay announced that they want to add two pieces of public art in green spaces around the site, and want input from the Princeton Arts Council about suitable works.

'Garden Walk' between apartment building and parking garage features significant new plantings and wooden benches-- a change from metal benches suggested by Princeton SPRAB (Click to expand.)

‘Garden Walk’ between apartment buildings and parking garage features significant new shrubbery and wooden benches– a change from metal benches suggested by Princeton SPRAB (Click to expand.)

Several committee chairs spoke favorably about AvalonBay’s efforts to accommodate feedback from the community. Changes to landscaping and various external amenities have already been included. Questions remain about the plan, however, and the committees delivered a lengthy collection of conditions for approval of the plan. Some of these seem helpful, but others, such as the SPRAB recommendation to reduce the height of the townhouses, seem arbitrary and would unnecessarily limit the diversity of housing choices available, or-worse-lead to a loss of affordable units.

What type of play equipment would work best in the new park on Witherspoon Street? And what issues do you think haven’t been addressed yet with the new apartment plan? Leave a comment below! Note- next Planning Board hearing is July 11.

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17 Responses to New Images Of Princeton Hospital Site Plan

  1. Pingback: Video Shows 3D Vision of Princeton Hospital Site Proposal | walkableprinceton

  2. Louis Slee says:

    The video shows beyond a doubt that too many apartments are located in too small an area creating a population density greater than exists in any other part of Princeton. This kind of development is the opening gambit that if approved will open up the township to multiple high-rise developments throughout the township totally changing the character of Princeton.. You can forget about the protection of zoning law if our elected officials okay this project.

    • SFB says:

      I disagree. The density is entirely appropriate for the site. There used to be massive hospital tower there, and we managed to accommodate that. The apartment building is modest in comparison. These new residents will support Princeton businesses and the municipal tax base. I think it’s a good thing and I look forward to it being completed. I also don’t agree that it will change the character of the town. If anything the character of the town will improve, because instead of having a derelict, ugly hospital building, we will have homes for new residents and a really nice park.

      • SPG says:

        Why are you comparing the hospital density (a public use building, serving the community) to a private, profit making company’s structure. That seems very questionable… As far as density is concerned, take some time to look at the surrounding neighborhood and you will see that this proposal has no business being implemented in this environment.

        Why replace the “ugly hospital building” with an ugly apartment building that is reminiscent of a large hotel?? Why not do better?

        Why not build housing that is relevant to its surroundings and provide retail that keeps the neighborhood in line with this part of town?

      • SFB says:

        The proposed buildings do relate to their surroundings. Honestly, you’d think they were trying to build the Empire State Building or a nuclear power plant by the amount of drama that has been kicked up over this project. Is it ugly? I don’t really think so but that’s clearly a matter of taste. I try not to go around the town judging other people’s homes. I have my own garden to tend-quite literally-and I’m going to keep trying to make my little corner of Princeton as beautiful as possible. There is room for diversity of housing styles in the town.

        I maintain that the density is entirely appropriate. If homes don’t get built here, where do you think they should be built? Out at the edge of town on a field? That’s what we usually do. It’s terrible. Green fields getting paved over just so some people can maintain the fantasy that Princeton is a village. This pattern of development has persisted for decades, generating more and more car journeys and causing climate change. No thanks. Homes belong in the town, where the jobs and stores are. Princeton is the biggest job center in Central Jersey. It’s absolutely bizarre that we don’t provide housing for people of average means and this project is a step in the right direction.

        And one more thing: we will ALL benefit from the density. The new residents will add to the vibrancy of the town, support the tax base, and local businesses. If this thing gets built, I expect to see a new diversity of retail, coffee shops and services springing up along this stretch of Witherspoon St, revitalizing the area.

  3. Pingback: Avalon Bay: Video of the Princeton Hospital Redevelopment | Fausta for Council

  4. SPG says:

    I’m afraid that saying the plans relate to their surroundings, doesn’t make this true. You should look more closely at the images and plans and make sure you have the right facts. In simple terms you are talking about a density that is multiple times that of the surrounding area.

    Talking about jobs and stores – why aren’t there any in this plan? Why wait until after all this “vibrancy” is built?

    I like the world you live, in but unfortunately have to deal with reality too – “we ALL benefit from density…”, then why not build a 20 story building? Why stop with 280, why not 500. Maybe that’s part of the plan already?

    • sfb says:

      Oh don’t worry, I know 100% what the facts are. It is possible for two people to look at the same thing and perceive something different. What we see depends on our experience, mood and outlook. You see something that is absolutely enormous; I see a modest-sized apartment building that will provide necessary homes for people who work in and around Princeton, and who would support Princeton’s merchants and tax-base. You think it is terrible that a developer might make money from renting houses in Princeton; I think it is wrong that we expect people who work in the town to live elsewhere and drive polluting cars into town every day.

      In answer to your question, the reason why the plan is 100% residential and does not have a commercial element is because stores are sitting unoccupied along Witherspoon Street, even as people sleep six to a room in nearby houses. There is a huge demand for homes, and a weak demand for commercial real estate. Stores always follow people, not the other way round. If a store opens when there is insufficient demand, then it will go out of business. We have to boost foot traffic in the area to support the lively stores we all want to see.

      Why not a 20 story building? Well, there are no 20 story buildings in Princeton, but there are plenty of 5 story buildings. This plan, with 2-5 stories, therefore fits in with Princeton, whereas 20 stories would be something of a departure. Me personally? I think there is a case, in 2013, for something like an 8-story building, which would support more neighborhood retail and provide even greater tax revenue benefits. But many neighbors clearly feel very strongly that something smaller is preferred. The current plan, with 2-5 stories is therefore a compromise, although of course some people do not compromise.

  5. SPG says:

    I’m impressed that you “know 100% what the facts are…”. I thought only AvalonBay had that level of information ;).

    I am also impressed with how you managed to compromise with yourself. You felt that 8 stories was right, but compromised with 2 – 5. I think it is harder to compromise with others and would recommend that as an approach.

    Since you have such a strong handle on the facts, can you tell us what percentage of the site will be 2 stories high? My understanding is that it is negligible and only windowdressing? The vast majority of the site is 5 stories high.

    Also, since you brought up tax revenue – have you done the cost calculation too (I mean from the town’s perspective, not AvalonBay)? I’m sure you realize that bringing this many people into the center of town has a cost associated with it too. I would not be surprised if this ends up costing the town money and am surprised that these calculations are not part of the process.

    Lastly, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the neighborhood, but there are plenty of nights where Conte’s (local pizza shop) is overflowing. And try finding parking in town if you want to visit a downtown restaurant – it is very difficult to do.

    Why not create alternatives – more places to walk to… something walkable Princeton should support. Local retail would do very well and there is not shortage of patrons.

  6. SFB says:

    1. Not everybody who disagrees with you is an employee of Avalon Bay. Other opinions are available.
    2. It’s not really a compromise with myself. It’s a compromise between providing homes for the thousands of people who can’t find a place to live in Princeton and drive into town every day, and accommodating neighbor preference. It is astonishing that people think that continuing the same pattern of developing fields and forest for housing is acceptable. Clearly, in the 21st century, some compromise has to be struck between adding homes in towns and paving over more and more green space.
    3. I don’t obsess over building height. I think Princeton should place a higher value on how inclusive our town could be versus how tall our buildings are. I find it strange that the question of whether a building is a couple of levels higher than neighboring houses is worth excluding local workers from the town. A building should really be as high as it is required to be, and ideology should not come into it. That said, the new AvalonBay plan has been designed with some thought so that the buildings that face the streets are lower than those in the interior. I don’t know the exact percentage, that is ridiculous, and completely misses the point.
    4. Let’s be clear: apartment buildings appeal to young professionals, single middle-aged people and seniors. If you build single-family homes on the site, as many opponents seem to desire, then you will place a greater burden on municipal services (notably schools) than what has been proposed. Demanding more and more studies is a time-wasting tactic by opponents that ignores the experience of many other municipalities locally and nation-wide.
    5. I am perfectly happy for Conte’s to be over-flowing. I love the atmosphere in there. I don’t think the goal of Princeton planning and zoning should be to reduce the line at Conte’s. If Conte’s is over-flowing there are plenty of places where they could open a second location. There’s plenty of parking in Princeton too- how often does the Spring Street Garage fill up?
    6. Adding apartments IS creating a walkable alternative: a walkable alternative to living in a township and driving everywhere all the time. Once these apartments are built, the Witherspoon corridor will be improved and revitalized. Local neighbors will see a significant boost in property values and the town will be better than ever.

  7. SPG says:

    Not everyone who is against this project is overreacting either. There are some very significant issues with this project and introducing a large apartment block, more like a motel structure, into a residential neighborhood is of grave concern to people who have the town’s best interest at heart.

    There’s no question that additional housing is needed, and that some of it must be affordable – this is just a question of scale. What is being proposed is not in proportion to the surroundings (this really should not be a question in anyone’s mind) and in my opinion beyond what the town can support. Unfortunately, this last statement will only be proven true or false if this proposal is passed.

    • sfb says:

      Clearly the town can support buildings of the scale of these apartments, because there was a hospital on the same site that was even bigger and the town managed just fine for decades! As for saying that ‘we need more housing, just not on this scale’ — this raises the question, where should the housing go?????? Do you propose that we build on some fields off of Cherry Valley Road? Or maybe off of Herontown Road? Because that is the choice. It’s a worse choice, because people who live in those places have to drive everywhere. Building on farmland is what we have done for decades, and what have we achieved? We have destroyed thousands of acres of green space, and made a car-dependent society. Density is too low for efficient public transit and most people have to get in their cars just to get some milk, never mind go to work. CO2 emissions are maximized and hard-working people are excluded from the town.

  8. SPG says:

    Statements like this indicate a huge disconnect – or an attempt to confuse people.

    A hospital is not an apartment block. One services the community, the other does not.

    Not all people looking for housing will find a place in Princeton. Sad but true. So the question is where to draw the line and what can the town support.

    This proposal is a complete departure from our current structure and has no relevance to a truly historic neighborhood.

    • sfb says:

      Which field should we build on so as to accommodate your design preferences for the hospital site? Do you think we should build houses on a field off of Cherry Valley Road, off of Herrontown Road, or a field/forest somewhere else? How much extra green space should be paved over before we make a serious effort to accommodate the people who serve us every day, in a walkable neighborhood served by transit?

  9. SPG says:

    :). That’s very amusing. When you want to discuss the facts, let me know.

    • SFB says:

      Well, the facts are that if we don’t build homes on infill sites like the hospital, they will be built on green spaces instead. When you’re ready to let me know what green spaces you want built over to preserve low density on the hospital site, I’m right here.

  10. Pingback: Route 1 Growth Strategy Should Inform Princeton Development | walkableprinceton

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