Toll Brothers have proposed a mixed use development at Bear Brook Road and old Bear Brook Road in West Windsor- a site sometimes know as ‘the Maneely property’. The plan, developed in conjunction with West Windsor township, calls for 188 ‘corporate suites’, 4o apartments, 51 town homes and 20,000 sq ft of commercial space. A 10-acre plot on the site is set aside for a 72-unit affordable housing development, which will potentially be constructed by Project Freedom. The plan was presented to the West Windsor Planning Board earlier this month. The details are below.
First- the site. Here is where it is:
The site is currently an undeveloped field at the intersection of Bear Brook and Old Bear Brook Road. Here is what the site looks like now:
The site plan is below. From Bear Brook Road, the site will be accessed by a new roundabout, leading to an internal road network.
From Bear Brook Road, nine large mixed-use (retail on bottom, apartments on top) buildings will be visible. There are three types of buildings. Five of them will be 3-level ‘Building A’-type (see photo at top). At the entrance, two ‘Building C’-type structures are envisaged. These have the largest footprint, and are also 3-level structures. Set back further are two ‘Building B’-type structures. These would be 4-level structures. A swimming pool/leisure/clubhouse for residents adjoins Building B-1. Below are front elevations for Buildings Type ‘B’ and ‘C’:
Next to Old Bear Brook Road, a platoon of 51 townhomes with rear-accessed garages are envisaged, ordered in five rows. Although the townhomes are packed relatively densely, their appearance is varied by having four different models as shown below:
Amazingly, the developer proposes to provide 3.5 car parking spaces per 3-bedroom town home! That means that even in a mixed-use development, the houses will have more parking spaces than they have bedrooms!
At the rear of the site is the proposed independent-living complex. The plan shown for this is provisional, as the arrangements have yet to be finalized with the provider.
In terms of context, it’s worth noting that Bear Brook Road is already the site of considerable residential housing, with existing densities equivalent to or exceeding the close-in neighborhoods of downtown Princeton.
So is the Toll Brothers plan any good? From a walkability standpoint, a mixture of uses is in general much better than single-use, because it provides the possibility of making journeys without using a car. A new grocery store in the Toll Brothers development will allow car-free or reduced-vehicle-miles-travelled trips to shopping for residents of the surrounding residential developments. The development offers useful density close to Princeton Junction rail station, increasing access to transit (a key recommendation of the Route 1 Growth Strategy).
New housing is welcome, because New Jersey is the second-worst state in the USA for housing cost. The Princeton area is particularly bad. West Windsor acts as an important residential area for Princeton employees. According to figures from the year 2000, there are 1,009 people who commute from West Windsor to Princeton daily. Some of the future residents of the Maneely site will be able to walk or cycle to the Dinky station (0.7 miles away) and take the train into central Princeton to work. Others may take the train to New York, Trenton, or even Philadelphia.
On the other hand, this West Windsor neighborhood is not a key activity center, and still won’t be even if this development is built. That means that most of the housing will be car-dependent. Even people who live here and work in Princeton are likely to drive, adding to a projected doubling of peak traffic on Alexander Street in Princeton within the next 5 years. Architecturally, the plan is mediocre, and from a placemaking standpoint, it’s a dud compared to sites such as the nearby mixed-use ‘Plainsboro Village Center‘.
The plan will go before Planning Board again this summer.
What do you think of this plan? Will it help build a more walkable West Windsor? Is it good for the region? Have your say using the comments box below.