Here’s some great news! All the plants and landscaping features from around the old Princeton Hospital site on Witherspoon Street are being lifted out and transplanted to new homes! Local residents, Princeton Healthcare Systems staff, the Department of Public Works (DPW) and developer AvalonBay are cooperating to find new homes for the plants. The plants were removed from around the front of the hospital site on Witherspoon Street:
The plants were loaded into the back of a trailer to be taken to their new home…
…the new home is going to be Spruce Circle, an affordable housing development for seniors located just off Harrison Road North, and operated by Princeton Housing Authority:
Not just plants, but also other valuable landscaping features, such as these pebbles were gathered up for re-use. This is good news, as it is unclear what would have happened to these materials if DPW and Princeton Housing Authority had not stepped in to make sure they were reused. It would have been terrible if good plants, which enliven the public realm for walkers and local residents, had ended up in the trash.
We were delighted to see that these plants were getting a new home, but the DPW staff seemed very antsy when we showed up taking photographs. No wonder- the hospital site redevelopment has been bogged down in controversy. The redevelopment plan became the subject of litigation between Princeton and AvalonBay, which seemed to have been resolved when the developer came back with a much improved plan, which was subsequently approved by the Princeton Planning Board in August. The matter seemed resolved, with even local objector group ‘Princeton Citizens For Sustainable Neighborhoods’ withdrawing their opposition. September 30 was due to be the date on which all outstanding legal action would be settled.
However, the Princeton taxpayer now looks set to fund some more lawyer’s fees, as a new objector group has sued the Planning Board, Mayor, Council and AvalonBay, claiming the approval of the hospital site plan was ‘arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable’. This group are apparently calling themselves the somewhat odd name, ‘Association For Planning At Hospital Site’. According to the Princeton Packet, the group’s address is 93 Harris Road, the same as local architect Areta Pawlynsky, who publicly opposed the AvalonBay plan, and served on a municipal task force that had discussed down-zoning density at the site.
Although the AvalonBay proposal wasn’t as good as many residents in the town would have liked, it does have many advantages, including increasing the supply of potential workforce and affordable housing, opening a new pedestrian throughway where the hospital previously stood, adding walkable homes near transit, and creating a new public park. The new objector group’s name is ironic, as redevelopment at the hospital site was the subject of planning for years, with public consultation stretching back at least as far as 2005. Local residents have a right to their day in court, but they might do better to take a cue from the plants and move on.