Concern and Disappointment with Avalon Bay Plan

Concern and disappointment with Avalon Bay plan for old hospital site

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.

Stephen Griffies 


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PrincetonIQ November 26, 2012 at 10:01 AM
On the other hand, there are many of us who are tired of the self-appointed environmental engineers, city planners and architectural critics who are complaining without realizing that, if this doesn't work out, we'll have an old hospital on a dozen acres that's a decaying eyesore. Look along Route 1 at the abandoned Pathmarks and others strip shopping centers to see what the alternative might be. I certainly don't mean that we shouldn't hold Avalon accountable, but we also need to realize that backroom deals from 12 years ago might not be accurately remembered by aging politicians and that the alternatives for the site are few and far between. We need more housing downtown, and we need more affordable housing, which this includes.
owen November 27, 2012 at 01:00 AM
PrincetonIQ has it exactly right. I live on Witherspoon between the old hospital and the police department and I say enough of these delaying tactics from people on Jefferson Road who have no interest in our neighborhood. More pollution comes out of the kitchen vents of PJ's Pancake House than you're going to find at the hospital site. But, heck, another six years of environmental hand-wringing should really show the evil developers that Princeton wants derelict buildings more than anything. Please, just get out of the way. This town has more "public spaces" than we know what to do with. Let's start with the little kiddie park on John Street that's been left to decay.
David Keddie December 03, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Princeton is in desperate need of more housing and many in the younger generation favor apartment living in vibrant, walkable neighborhoods. These endless delays only drive up the cost of living and force housing out to the margins of the region. The only way to make housing more affordable in Princeton is to increase it's supply. The best answer to our traffic problems is to allow more to live car-free lifestyles where they can walk to work and stores. Our school tax base can only be helped by emphasizing apartment living that attracts singles and empty-nesters rather than allowing only single-family homes oriented to those with children. Any hope for preserving undeveloped land on the fringes of the region requires a willingness to allow greater density in the walkable core. Let's reconsider our habit of opposing any and every new development in Princeton.


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