2021 may be remembered as another year ruined by coronavirus, but a lot of good things happened in Princeton this year. A very-busy Princeton Planning Board gave the green light to construction of more affordable homes (probably more than in the previous 5 years put together) and an amazing new Princeton University Arts Museum. Princeton Council approved a new vision for Witherspoon Street that is likely to create a more beautiful and walkable downtown. And the long-delayed Gateway project to build new rail links between New York and New Jersey finally gained key federal approvals. But what will the new year bring? Here are ten guesses about what 2022 might have in store for Princeton…and don’t forget to read to the end to check how our predictions from last year held up!!
Predictions for 2022:
- Bridge over Untroubled Water? – Princeton University got approval this year for their ‘Lake Campus‘ on the south side of Lake Carnegie in West Windsor Twp. But how will staff and students get from there to the main University campus? The University’s master plan suggested a new bridge should be built across Lake Carnegie, for use by pedestrians and cyclists. It would be hard to build, because it would connect two towns and cross one state historic park, but maybe we can expect a concept plan for it this year. Likelihood: 5/10
- Lots of Construction – The Princeton Planning Board approved a *lot* of development proposals in 2021, and the upshot is that local residents can expect to see a lot of stuff getting built in the coming year. Major projects on Terhune Road, at 20 Nassau St, and Prospect Ave will all advance. Likelihood: 8/10
- Witherspoon Street Phase 2 – After much discussion, the town of Princeton finally approved a more walkable design for Witherspoon St between Nassau St and Green St earlier this year. As construction on that project kicks off, a final plan is likely to emerge for Phase 2 of the project, which extends along Witherspoon St between Green Street and Valley Road. Look to see what the town can do to make the road safer for kids riding to Community Park School. Likelihood: 7/10
- NJ Transit will recommend BRT option for Dinky line: Public consultation on NJ Transit’s “Princeton Transitway” study wrapped up this week. With three of the four alternatives featuring Bus Rapid Transit either alongside or instead of a rail link between Princeton and Princeton Junction, it seems very likely that the final recommendation will include a new, frequent bus link running between the Princeton Shopping Center and Princeton Junction rail station. Although improved transit options are much needed in Princeton, expect vocal opposition from people who believe that any Bus Rapid Transit option is a ruse to get rid of the rail link. Likelihood: 7/10
- More opposition to townhouses – When a developer brought a proposal for three LEED-Gold townhouses on Humbert Street in Princeton earlier this year, they might have guessed that a sustainability-focused Smart Growth project would be welcomed by the town. Instead, they were greeted with a chorus of disapproval. Expect to see similar projects before the Planning Board this year, and more opposition, which will test whether the town is really committed to Smart Growth. Likelihood: 9/10
- New stormwater regulations – Princeton Council adopted new stormwater regulations this year, and were poised to pass even more stringent restrictions, which would have made it almost impossible to do any redevelopment projects in downtown Princeton. After the soaking from Storm Ida and increasing evidence of climate change, expect the issue of stormwater run-off to get more attention from Council this year. Likelihood: 5/10
- New charging stations for electric vehicles – The ‘Climate Action Plan’ adopted by the town of Princeton in 2019 envisage rapid adoption of electric vehicles, but the number of public EV charging locations in the town has not grown much, and many public buildings have no charging apparatus at all. Expect that to change in 2021 with the installation of charging stations at the municipal complex at 400 Witherspoon Street. Likelihood: 5/10
- Communiversity returns – The Princeton Arts Council ‘Communiversity’ street festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and at the time of writing, we are in the middle of a new surge in cases. Despite that, expect Communiversity to come back in some form in 2022. Likelihood: 7/10
- Fundraising begins for Princeton Einstein Museum – One of the most interesting proposals in recent years, a campaign to build a Princeton Einstein Museum of Science was announced earlier this year. Although no site for the museum has been identified yet, expect the campaign to create a STEAM-focused experience celebrating the life of Princeton’s most famous resident to gain, um, steam this year! Likelihood: 6/10
- Ban on turf fields – Neighborhood opposition killed not one but two different proposals to build all-weather playing fields for kids in Princeton. Although no suitable alternative facilities have been identified, and a large grant from the county is at risk of being lost, expect the town to double down by banning synthetic turf fields altogether in 2022. Likelihood: 6/10
And now, reviewing our predictions for this year…which came true?? (Original post can be viewed here: “Ten Predictions For Princeton in 2021“)
- A resurgence in Princeton business life. (Probability: 7/10). Did it happen? Yes, pretty much.
- Princeton will greatly expand resident permit parking. (Probability: 8/10) Did it happen? No! The permit parking task force became the subject of angry opposition and, as the year comes to a close, there has been no action the expand resident permit parking.
- New hotel on Nassau St will be approved. (Probability: 6/10) Did it happen? Yes. Despite concerted oppposition from some neighbors on Bank St, the hotel was approved in February.
- Mayor Freda will Do Something about parking. (Probability: 6/10) Did it happen? Not really. The mayor has not indicated a forceful opinion about parking, and has mostly worked with Council on other issues.
- Griggs Corner redevelopment will be resurrected. (Probability: 5/10) Did it happen? Yes. Not only resurrected, but approved as well.
- Princeton ‘Transitway Study’ will launch. (Probability: 7/10) Did it happen? Yes. The study to examine alternatives to the Dinky train has proceeded apace, and four options have already been identified. This is sure to be a news-maker in 2022 as well.
- Princeton Council will ban marijuana stores. (Probability: 7/10) Did it happen? Yes. The town ‘temporarily’ banned stores selling legalized marijuana, with the idea that new regulations would be drawn up to allow them to open. The year has now ended without any such regulations having been adopted, and amid vocal opposition from local prohibitionists.
- Princeton’s first “self-driving car crash”. (Probability: 1/10) Did it happen? No. If it did, we didn’t hear about it.
- Princeton Health Department will ban gas-powered leaf blowers. (Probability: 2/10) Did it happen? No. The leaf blower task force instead made recommendations for a seasonal ban on gas leaf-blowers to Council, which adopted them. The ban even includes operation of electric leaf blowers and electric lawnmowers at certain times of the weekend.
- Princeton University will announce a new bikeshare scheme. (Probability: 3/10) Did it happen? No. The University arguably had enough work just ensuring students could be on campus at all with the various coronavirus waves, but they have not yet found a replacement for the old ‘Zagster’ bikeshare scheme, which collapsed at the onset of the pandemic.
Final score for 2021: 5/10.
Thanks for reading this year!!