Residents Start Petition Opposing Hospital Site Zoning Change: Borough Council to Discuss Zoning Tonight

Rendering of new apartments slated for the hospital site on Witherspoon Street.

A petition is circulating that calls for local officials to keep the existing zoning at the downtown Princeton hospital site instead of changing it to accommodate the developer’s proposal to increase in the number of apartment units allowed. The petition can be found at

The Borough Council will discuss the hospital zoning tonight at its 7:30 public meeting.

Developer Avalon Bay wants to increase the number of units allowed at the Witherspoon Street  site by 44 units. The existing zoning allows for 280 units, but a representative for Avalon Bay said the company needs to build 324 units to make the project profitable.

Avalon Bay also wants an increase in the density at the site without increasing the number of units that are affordable units. Under a Princeton Borough ordinance, 20 percent of units must be affordable units. The developer has argued that the state standard is 15 percent. If the increased density is allowed, the number of affordable units would remain at 56 units, which would be 17.3 percent of the total units.

Market-rate studio, one-bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom apartments at the proposed development would rent for between $1,600 to $3,200 a month, said Ron Ladell, senior vice president of Avalon Bay Communities. Affordable housing typically rent at 30, 50 or 60 percent of average median income.

Ladell told the Borough Council two weeks ago that the company would like to build nine “workforce” units. Workforce housing would be for people earning 80 to 150 percent of the area’s average median income, or between $41,000 and $98,000 for a three-member household. The units could have a “Princeton preference” for those living or working in Princeton, Ladell said. The preference could include Princeton’s volunteer firefighters and rescue workers, local officials suggested.

Avalon Bay, a national developer of apartments with several other projects in New Jersey, including apartment complexes in West Windsor and Lawrence, is under contract to purchase the University Medical Center at Princeton when the hospital moves to Plainsboro in May, The company plans to demolish the hospital building.

Residents are concerned about the affect the project will have on local traffic, and some oppose the increased density because of such concerns about how the project will change the character of the neighborhood.