Last month, a Princeton Council task force published a report naming 13 suitable sites for new affordable housing. One of the proposed sites was a parking lot on Franklin Avenue, that is set to be donated to the town by Princeton University. But last week, members of a new group appeared before Council, asking for the site to be turned into a park instead.
The so-called ‘Friends of Franklin Avenue Park‘ have set up a Facebook page to share ideas. Based on testimony before Council, it seems that they are aiming to downzone the site, which is currently zoned for housing at up to 14 units per acre, to zero units per acre. That would, of course, mean no new housing, affordable or otherwise.
While a new park would be great, there are already many opportunities for recreation around Franklin Avenue. In addition to small play-parks at Guyot Ave (2 blocks away) and the soon-to-be-expanded Mary Moss Park, there are playing fields belonging to the middle and high school that are not much used outside of school hours. Community Park, one of the biggest in Princeton, is less than 10 minutes walk away. And a new park is already under construction right on Franklin Avenue, as part of the AvalonBay project. This new park, which will be freely open to the public, will be on the same block as the Franklin Avenue parking lot site. On the other hand, affordable housing in Princeton is in very short supply, with a current waiting list of over a thousand people.
One potential compromise would be to allow more housing than existing zoning permits on the Franklin Avenue site, and dedicate part of the site as a park or green space. This solution would allow more people to live in a highly walkable part of town, with good access to jobs and stores, while at the same time providing a new amenity for the local neighborhood. Realistically, this site should be upzoned whether a park is built or not, to help fix Princeton’s increasingly-unbalanced housing mix.
Also in the news this week: Hopewell Boro opposes affordable housing proposal, Philadelphia legalizes short-term home rental through sites like Airbnb (nj.com), and Oregon launches experimental 1.5 cent per mile driving fee, as potential substitute for gas tax (h/t CityLab).