Part of Witherspoon Street will become one-way only, with much of the space being given over for outdoor dining at local businesses, according to a plan adopted by Princeton Council on Monday night. The plan is the town’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Many local businesses were closed, or saw huge decreases in trade when New Jersey was under a ‘stay-at-home’ order intended to slow spread of the virus. As businesses re-open around the state, many towns are repurposing street space to make it easier for diners to eat outside, where virus spread is considered to be less likely. By changing Witherspoon Street to one-way traffic only between Nassau Street and Spring Street, Princeton will free up a lot of street space that can be used to place tables to help support nearby businesses and ensure safe ‘social distancing’ between diners.
The diagram above was included in the Council packet for the meeting on Monday evening, June 15. It shows how changes to downtown street and public spaces will be implemented. The most dramatic changes are on Witherspoon Street. All on-street parking between Nassau Street and Spring Street will be removed, and only north-bound vehicle traffic will be allowed. Restaurants will be allowed to place table in the public right-of-way, and other areas will be designated as ‘curbside pick-up’ zones. The town has contacted New Jersey Department of Transportation regarding chaining the traffic flow on Witherspoon Street to one-way only, and municipal engineer Deanna Stockton reported that the responses so far were favorable.
Other changes will affect Hulfish Street and Hinds Plaza, in the area around Princeton Public Library. Tables for outdoor dining will be placed in parking bays next to ‘Lan Ramen’ and ‘Mistral’, and part of the street will be reserved as a ‘queuing area’ for the ‘Halo Pub’ ice-cream shop. Jack Morrison Group restaurants ‘Witherspoon Grill’ and ‘Kristine’s’ will take over part of Hinds Plaza. Local historian Shirley Satterfield will be providing additional information about Mr. Hinds for diners taking advantage of this space. Some part of the square will nonetheless remain open to the public.
The proposals were drafted by a committee established by Council several weeks ago. The Committee was tasked with identifying ways to assist local businesses and ensure social distancing. Their work has included substantial discussions with local business leaders and the Princeton Bike Committee, to ensure maximum economic support and accessibility. Council will also be providing around $10,000 to support efforts by these groups and the Arts Council of Princeton to add appropriate decorative elements and way finding signage to ensure that the reconfigured downtown looks as good as possible. Mayor Lempert expects the changes to Witherspoon Street to start to be implemented as soon as today (June 15) and to last potentially for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.