Op-Ed: Is the Voice of the Princeton Community Being Heard?

The Princeton community said it wanted any project on the downtown hospital site to be open, to be inviting and to have a welcoming quality. It does not want a gated, closed-off development.

Princeton Future  — as an organization focused on finding solutions to community challenges through public education and civic engagement — is concerned that the proposed development at the former hospital site does not comply with municipal design standards crafted by the community.

Princeton Future worked very hard during the 2005-6 academic year on the Witherspoon Street Corridor Study.  The videos and verbatim transcripts of the community are posted at www.princetonfuture.org.  The findings of the study process resulted in the design standards of the Borough of Princeton’s zoning code governing the re-zoning of the hospital site. We would do well to seek ways to further the enforceability of the standards.

Princeton’s Site Plan Advisory Review Board (SPRAB) made a presentation on April 19  to the Princeton Regional Planning Board underscoring the major shortcomings of the proposed development of the hospital site by Avalon Bay, based on the proposal’s failure to comply with Princeton’s design standards.

“The design standards contain many specific directions concerning the scale, and public permeability of development,” SPRAB’a report to the board read. “This development proposal completely contradicts these directions and demonstrates that Avalon Bay does not intend to comply. In addition to the prohibition of a private gated community, these contradictions include the design standards’ recurrent themes of relating to the neighborhood scale, varying building heights, varying styles, integration into the life of the neighborhood, and being physically permeable.”

Given the importance of the hospital site location, size and function, it is crucial for us, as community members, to ensure that our municipal representatives and staff members guard against development projects which seek to contravene public priorities.


Sheldon Sturges
for The Council of Princeton Future