Five Safe Predictions For Princeton In 2016…And Five Crazy Ones!

Construction at the old hospital site was one of the most visible changes of 2015, but what does 2016 hold? (click to expand)

Construction at the old hospital site was one of the most visible changes of 2015, but what does 2016 hold? (click to expand)

New Year is the time when we traditionally try to guess what the coming 12 months will bring. For 2016, we’re going to make 5 guesses for things that will probably happen, and five guesses of things that might…but probably won’t. As usual, the focus is on planning, especially planning that brings people the freedom to live where they choose and get around how they choose. Leave a comment below if you think you can do better!

Prediction 1: New University Campus Plan Will Recommend A New Residential College. (likelihood: 8/10). Ever since his appointment, Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber has been talking about expanding the student body. Probably that means a new residential college, which, like anything the University might do, would be controversial in the town. The upcoming University campus plan may hedge, however, and leave the final decision to trustees.

Prediction 2: Regime Change On The Princeton Governing Body. (likelihood 7/10) Since consolidation, the Mayor and Council has remained the same through 3 election cycles. Expect that to change in 2016. Council Member Patrick Simon is channeling Biden as he contemplates a run against Liz Lempert for Mayor. Meanwhile, new challengers are lining up for what could be an interesting Democratic Council Primary. Change is in the air.

Prediction 3: Somebody will complain about the rental price of new AvalonBay apartments. (likelihood: 8/10). Princeton doesn’t have nearly enough apartments, so when AvalonBay opens their first units at the old hospital site, they will no doubt charge a stiff price. $1,800 for a 1-bed, or more, might be the going rate. Expect some locals to blame the company’s greed, instead of the town’s failure to ensure a competitive rental market.

Prediction 4: Gas tax will go up. (likelihood: 6/10). Last year it seemed like a sure bet that NJ would raise the duty rate on gasoline, which is the lowest in the continental United States. Nope. But for better or worse, it is likely to go up this year, probably as part of a tawdry political compromise.

Prediction 5: New Bike Masterplan Will Provoke Protest. (likelihood 10/10). Last year, Princeton was awarded a grant to make a new plan for bike facilities in town. The consultants are undertaking an unprecedented level of public participation during preparation of the plan. Despite that, the final report, which will probably be published in 2016, will no doubt be attacked by the town’s obdurate anti-bike lobby, possibly led by Council Member Patrick Simon, who successfully undermined a plan to install new bike lanes on Hamilton Avenue in 2015.

— OK, before we get to the more outlandish guesses about what will happen in 2016, how did we do with our 2015 predictions? Here’s a recap:

  • Changes to parking will spark a lively debate. (Likelihood: 9/10.). Yep. This happened.
  • Hopewell Township will be hit with a “builders remedy” lawsuit over failure to provide affordable housing. Likelihood: 5/10. Scoring this as a Yes. Hopewell is up the legal creek with its housing plan, as developers circle with their court briefs.
  • The Old Princeton Hospital will finally disappear. Likelihood: 9.5/10. Yes. But the development was oh-so-nearly derailed by a kerfuffle over fire safety early in the year.
  • New ‘Elements’ Restaurant Will Get A Glowing Review In The’New York Times’. Likelihood: 8/10. Yes. More of a preview than review, but certainly glowing.
  • A New Princeton Neighbors Group Will Form To Fight Something Or Other. Likelihood: 9/10. Yes.
  • A walker/jogger on the D&R Canal Trail will be hospitalized by angry Canada Geese. Likelihood: 1.5/10. OK, this one is a ‘no’. If you know differently, get in touch.
  • Film crews will appear in Princeton to shoot a biopic of Paul Robeson. Likelihood: 4/10. Although a biopic of Paul Robeson is reportedly under production, there were no film crews in Princeton this year. Perhaps there is a little piece of Canada that is currently dressed up as Princeton.
  • Old PFARS site will be dedicated for affordable housing. Likelihood: 6/10. No. Despite being named as a potential site for affordable housing, and Princeton having a massive waiting list for affordable housing, the PFARS site was not included in the new Fair Share housing draft.
  • New Jersey gas tax will go up for the first time in years. Likelihood: 7/10. No. Instead, the Transportation Commissioner who was appointed to make it happen resigned in disgust.
  • A plan will appear for development of the ‘West Windsor Transit Village’. Likelihood: 1/10. No, of course not. There’ll probably be a Transit Village on the moon before there’s one in Princeton Junction. Meanwhile, West Windsor collects credit for its commitment to transit-oriented-development. Classic Jersey.

Final Score for 2015: 5/10.–

OK, back to predictions for 2016. Here are some more ‘out-there’ guesses for what will happen in the coming 12 months:

Prediction 6: Princeton University Campus Plan Will Endorse Modern Streetcar. (likelihood: 3/10) Last year, the Alexander Street task force published a report saying that a streetcar could replace the Princeton Branch rail line, and restore a rail connection to downtown. Council showed little enthusiasm. If this streetcar is going to get built, it will require the University’s largesse. It’s an outside bet, but Eisgruber and his pals may consider it desirable to move University parking lots south of Lake Carnegie, to free up space near the historic core. The lots could be connected to campus by an upgraded light rail line, and the angst of nostalgic townies could be offset by extending the line up to Palmer Square.

Prediction 7: New bikeshare stations will open in central Princeton. (likelihood 3/10) Princeton is currently home to what may be the world’s smallest bikeshare program. But the University is gearing put to expand the Zagster program on campus, and the town has been awarded a $196,000 grant to put new stations in the town. Ordinarily, that would mean that the new stations would appear soon, but this is Princeton, so it’s more likely that the town will manage to dither right through 2016 without getting them built.

Prediction 8: ‘Princeton Packet’ will announce plan to move out of Witherspoon Street. (likelihood 2/10). The Packet Media Group occupies prime real estate near downtown Princeton at Witherspoon & Henry. The redevelopment potential of the land is surely more valuable to somebody than maintaining the old news room there…

Prediction 9: Robert Dodge will be elected to the Princeton School Board.(likelihood 5/10). Amid the drama of the Presidential election and Mayoral election, not many people will be paying attention to what is happening at the Princeton School Board. But three incumbents are likely to bow out, making a big shake-up likely. Robert Dodge missed out on election last year, after running on a hardline anti-housing platform, but he’s likely to be back, and more successful this time around.

Prediction 10: Alexander Road Bridge will be washed out in flood. (likelihood 1/10). The lingering effects of an unprecedented El Niño event, coupled with incipient climate change, will lead to catastrophic flooding in Princeton in February. The Alexander Road Bridge over the D&R canal will be washed away, and people will be outraged that it’s slightly harder to buy gas.

 

Think you can do better? Give us your best predictions in the comments section below!

 

 

 

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