To the Editor:
I wish to express concerns for the proposed redevelopment of the Princeton Hospital site on Witherspoon Street. I believe realization of the proposal from Avalon Bay would represent a disaster for the broader Princeton community, and for the Witherspoon Street neighborhood in particular. In brief, here are my concerns.
--Reed Plans: The plan from Avalon Bay fails to meet the letter and spirit of the plans developed through the leadership of former Borough Mayor Marvin Reed in the mid-2000s. The Reed Plans were developed with extensive community involvement and represent an exciting and once-in-a-generation opportunity for Princeton to bring forth a green/sustainable/open community development that would inspire and lead in the region and world. The Avalon Bay plan, in contrast, gives nearly zero considerations to the Reed Plans. Avalon Bay instead offers Princeton a throwback to the cookie-cutter strip mall attitude of the 1970s that leaves so much of America with orphaned developments of designed obsolescence. Princeton should collaborate with a developer capable of meeting the letter and spirit of the Reed Plans using sustainable methods that will leave a wonderful legacy for decades if not centuries.
--Potential Contamination: The hospital site has the potential to have significant hazardous wastes that must be remediated. Many older hospital sites have mercury contamination, as well as radiation leaks, broken sewer/septic lines, and leaking fuel tanks. I heard rather unsatisfying statements at the recent Planning Board meetings to address these concerns. The present citizens of Princeton, and those who will live in the new apartments, must be assured that development will occur only after a full and open process of environmental testing, with the follow-on remediation as required.
What struck me during the recent Planning Board meetings was the clear voice of the many citizens in attendance who oppose the Avalon Bay plan. In essence, what brings the people together in their opposition is that the Avalon Bay plan in no way meets Princeton standards. Instead, Avalon Bay proposes to introduce a soul-less structure into a unique town whose history in people and buildings is world class, and the envy of nearly every community in America. Princeton deserves far better. Should you, the Planning Board, insist that the developer of the hospital site maintain the letter and spirit of the Reed Plans, I conjecture that nearly all Princeton citizens will be wholeheartedly in favor. Please stand firm in your commitment to the Reed Plans.
For those interested in the ongoing discussions, please attend the Planning Board hearings during Dec 6, 10, and 13. It is important that all voices be heard.