Planning Board Rejects Concept Plan for Four-Story Housing at Princeton Shopping Center

The south-east corner of Princeton Shopping Center, which has been identified as a potential site for new housing (click to expand)

At a marathon hearing on Thursday night, the Princeton Planning Board endorsed a new Fair Share Housing plan for the town of Princeton. The Board also approved several affordable housing ordinances, which had been sent for review by the Town Council. But several issues proved controversial, most notably the ‘concept plan’ for affordable housing at Princeton Shopping Center.

The town’s Fair Share Plan calls for 200 units of new housing at the Princeton Shopping Center. Of those 200 units, 44 would be designated as affordable homes, helping the town to meet state-mandated requirements for affordable home construction.  As reported yesterday at Walkable Princeton, the town had drafted an ordinance to allow construction of these homes, which included a concept plan in which the 200 homes would be situated at  the south-east corner of the Princeton Shopping Center site. The new homes would be built in a building of up to four stories, which would replace the existing Walgreens pharmacy, with a new pharmacy added closer to North Harrison Street.

This concept plan for the housing at the Princeton Shopping Center was condemned by several residents of neighboring Clearview Avenue, who raised many issues, such as that it would generate too much traffic, cast shadows on their homes, ruin the view from their backyards, and “change the complexion of the neighborhood”. Mark Freda, the likely future Mayor of Princeton, joined the dissent, saying that the maximum allowable height of 65-ft was ‘crazy’.

In response to the protests, the Planning Board made a decision to recommend to Council that any mention of the concept plan be deleted. The Princeton Shopping Center would still be a location for 200 units of housing, but the ordinance would not require that the new housing be clustered at the southeast corner of the site. That means that the new housing may be spread out through other locations at the Princeton Shopping Center, assuming, of course, that the owners of the site (national real estate operator, EDENS) are interested in any such plan.

The Planning Board also encountered confusion over the future development of affordable housing at Franklin Avenue, which has been considered a good site for affordable housing for several years. The Fair Housing Plan named Princeton Community Housing as the developer, but Planning Board member Alvin McGowen, who is also a board member at the Princeton Housing Authority (PHA) insisted that the PHA also be named as a co-developer. Following a hurried phone call to attorney Kevin Van Hise, the Board agreed to this.

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