Princeton Council are scheduled tonight to approve a plan to knock down the historic house at 31 Lytle Street. The house was acquired by a developer, with plans to demolish and build townhouses. Princeton Council instead aimed to turn the lot into a park, which would be an extension of Mary Moss Park next door. Now, based on a compromise worked out by a group of local residents, Council will set aside part of the lot for construction of new affordable residences, which will incorporate some features of the original house. The rest of the lot will become an extension for Mary Moss Park, which will be renovated at the same time. If you are able, you may want to attend Council to support the plan to add affordable homes to this site.
The plan to create affordable housing has received very little support from the town. Municipal officials regard it as a bad use of limited affordable housing funds, as the house is in very poor condition and would require a huge injection of capital. Instead, a coalition has stepped in, aiming to raise funds and get technical support from Habitat for Humanity to build new dwellings for low-income residents. These homes would maintain the residential character of Lytle Street, and provide housing at a highly walkable location. It looks like a good plan, especially because Princeton needs hundreds of new affordable homes. Some local activists have argued that the current plan does not go far enough, and that Council should abandon the park expansion and use all the available space for affordable housing.
Last week, the town sent letters to residents in the Witherspoon-John neighborhood advising them that consultants would be in the area preparing a report that is expected to lead to a proposal for a new historic zoning overlay. Future renovations would then be regulated by state law listing exactly what materials and style would be acceptable. What would have happened to the Lytle Street house if this overlay was already in place? It would probably not have been sold to a knockdown/rebuild developer, but it would probably not become affordable housing either. Whoever bought the property would need to completely gut it and rebuild it, using all the right materials. The cost would be so great as to require a very wealthy new owner. Resolving the balance between affordability and the desire for preservation will be a big challenge for the neighborhood.
- Council will discuss the Lytle Street property as part of its regular meeting tonight, Monday, July 27. The open session begins at 7.00 p.m. at the Council chamber at 400 Witherspoon Street, Princeton. Click here for the full agenda.
Park or affordable housing – what is the best use of this site? Have your say in the comments section below.