We recently learned that a new plan had been developed for the 255 Nassau St site, currently home to a Crossfit gym. A rendering of the proposal has now been released (see image above).
The owners of the site are the Carnevale family, who were the proprietors of ‘The Annex‘ restaurant, which for 70 years was a fixture on Nassau Street in the space now occupied by ‘The Princeton Sports Bar and Grill‘. The plan was developed following extensive consultation with the local community, including a door-to-door survey of residents along Murray, Pine and Maple Streets, several neighborhood stakeholder meetings, and prolonged discussions with the former Borough Council. The preliminary site plan has met with approval from the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Mixed Uses Enable 24/7 use of the site
The rendering shows that the building will be extended with an addition at the back, which will contain mostly 2-bed, 2-ba apartments. This will enable a total of 16 residential units, up from the 2 units currently present at the site. Mixed-use, infill development in a walkable area like this would be a big plus for the environment, for enabling car-free and car-lite living and for sustaining business interests along East Nassau. It would also be a far better use of this site, which has been under-utilized ever since the closure of the Wild Oats market several years ago.
In addition to putting goods and services in a walkable environment, a mixture of uses makes sure that the site is used around the clock. Whereas apartments mostly sit empty during the day, and offices or commercial uses are closed at night, having both enables the site to be productively used 24/7.
The plan furthermore features historic preservation of the old building facade, including the carved ‘Dodge Brothers – Detroit USA’ logo inset above the main entrance- a throwback to the days when this site was a car dealership in the midst of Princeton’s ‘Gasoline Alley’.
Should The Site House Even More People?
Reflecting the intense demand for walkable apartments in Princeton, which we have noted previously, a waiting list is already
full filling up* for the 16 proposed units, even though they are expected to rent for an eye-watering $3,000 per month! Princeton is still not adding nearly enough units to meet the intense demand for walkable housing, so $3,000 / month likely reflects the market rate. One criticism of this plan is that it only provides 16 apartments. A nearby project from Studio Hillier on Olden Street will add 18 residential units on a smaller site. Until Princeton finds ways to address the shortage of housing in and around the downtown area, walkable living will remain beyond the reach of many middle-income people, who instead look outside Princeton for a place to live, and then drive into town every day, producing traffic and greenhouse gases.
The good news for people looking for an affordable place to live is that a certain number of units will be set aside as affordable housing, in compliance with Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) regulations. The exact number of these units is not clear at this point.
Landscape Improvements To Offer More Livable Public Spaces?
As the former home of an auto-dealership, 255 Nassau St is surrounded by asphalt, which is presently used for parking. Although the question of parking at the site will inevitably come up during review of the plan by SPRAB and the Princeton Planning Board, we observe that the current rendering shows some of the existing parking being given over to a new public space fronting onto Nassau St.
Upgrading the pedestrian space with a ‘park-let’ like this would be an asset to the East Nassau neighborhood. For decades the site of garages and gas stations, this neighborhood has become one of the best in Princeton, featuring high-end restaurants such as Blue Point Grill as well as long-time favorites such as Hoagie Haven. Using some of the space around the site as a mini-plaza with improved vegetation and seating would be a bonus for area residents and visitors alike.
* UPDATE- contrary to what we wrote earlier, units are apparently still available in this development, and the developer is still accepting names for the waiting list pending approval from the Planning Board.
What do you think? Do you think this looks like a potentially good use of the site? Do any aspects of the proposed development concern you? Leave your comment below!