Princeton University’s big redevelopment of the Merwick-Stanworth site is now almost complete. The construction, which is located on the east side of Bayard Lane (Route 206) between Leigh Avenue and the Princeton YMCA site, broke ground in late 2013. A map is available here. It is one of the biggest new residential projects in Princeton in recent years. We took a walk around to check it out…
The Merwick-Stanworth redevelopment is easily visible from Route 206, one of the biggest roads leading through Princeton. But it’s also just a 10 minute walk from downtown Princeton / Princeton University campus (especially if you use the new cut-through path to the YMCA).
The more-southerly part of the site, which was formerly the home of the Merwick Care Center, was developed first. The development is owned by Princeton University, and is primarily intended for their faculty and staff. The University runs a website to provide more information and accept housing applications.
With a total of 326 units, the Merwick-Stanworth site is the largest single redevelopment in Princeton in recent years, although some of the new units replace existing homes in the old Stanworth apartments. The overall direction of the redevelopment was set as a result of community meetings that took place around 2006, and final planning approval was granted in late 2012. Spaced over 25 acres, the overall density of housing works out to about 13 units per acre.
The area at the south has the highest-density housing, which in this case means up to 3 floors of apartments:
Most of the homes are 2-level townhouses. Although the site is very close to downtown, with a ‘walkscore‘ of 77 (very walkable), the overall atmosphere is suburban. Parking for cars is plentiful, but the only entry and exit points for vehicles are from Route 206, so there is basically no through traffic. The houses are surrounded by significant patches of landscaped green space, and there is even an exercise circuit in the middle.
The University has managed to protect a good number of large trees during the construction, as can be seen around the park here:
The new development is proving very popular with young families, leading some Princeton residents to worry about the number of new students entering the local public schools. On the other hand, it’s a beautiful site to see so many bicycles belonging to different age groups lined up like this:
The Merwick-Stanworth development is only connected by road to Route 206, but various walk-bike paths provide access to John Street or Paul Robeson Place (via the YMCA site). The multi-use paths are of variable quality. Some of them are too narrow to easily accommodate cyclists and walkers, whereas other meet the required standard of at least 8-ft.
One thing that is impressive about the Merwick-Stanworth redevelopment is that it includes 56 units of below-market rental units. These units are intended for people with a below-average household income. They are open to non-University members, and applications are handled by Princeton Community Housing.
Probably the major problem with the Merwick-Stanworth site is that, architecturally, it’s about as exciting as a cup of milk. Depending on your point-of-view, that could be considered a good thing or a bad thing. Certainly, in Princeton, where ‘fitting in’ is considered to be a major goal of planning, this design could be considered a success. One especially strange choice seems to have been to make all the buildings exactly the same color. It is 25 acres of creamy-beige. Possible the biggest concentration of beige buildings in New Jersey:
Everywhere you look, it’s just the same color, everywhere. A vaguely Caucasian shade of siding with the same brown trim and uniform doors:
Maybe the University got a really good deal on a big batch of beige siding and decided to just go with it everywhere. Maybe they were just aiming to make it as inoffensive as possible, to placate local residents who are increasingly wary of new buildings that are in any way out of the ordinary. In any case, the color probably won’t matter much to the new residents. These homes are going to be a fantastic, safe, walkable place to live for those lucky enough to be able to get into them.