Hillier Breaks Ground on Princeton Senior Housing Project

With a ceremonial shoveling of dirt, architect and developer J. Robert Hillier yesterday celebrated the groundbreaking for his senior project, Copperwood.

More than 50 people attended the ceremony on the Princeton Ridge property on Bunn Drive, including elected officials, developers and environmentalists who once fought project on the environmentally sensitive ridge.

Hillier said the development will enable Princetonians to downsize from their single-family residences to an independent living community where they can continue to be active members of the Princeton community they love so much. “It’s the best little city in the world,” he said.

A year ago Hillier received final approvals for Copperwood. He previously faced project delays because of opposition to the plan by environmentalists, who worked out a compromise with Hillier and now support his project.

Copperwood will be the first market-rate housing development for seniors in Princeton. Princeton has senior affordable housing, but no market-rate or upscale over-55 communities like neighboring municipalities offer.

The new 153-unit development is scheduled to open in late summer of 2013. Units will be for rent instead of for sale as originally planned, and rents for the market-rate apartments are expected to range from $1,900 to $3,600 a month, depending on size and location within the complex. A dozen units will be affordable housing. Tenants can choose from one-, three- and five-year leases for the apartments, which range in size from 718 square feet to 1,296 square feet.

Township officials have wanted senior housing in the township for many years, but several plans fell through. Builder K. Hovnanian received approvals for senior housing back in 2005, but Hovnanian pulled out of the project at the 21-acre tract commonly known as the Lowe Tract.

Hillier then developed a project for the site and received planning board approvals, but environmentalists sued the township over the zoning for the site. A three-year-old lawsuit between Princeton Township and environmentalists was settled last year, paving the way for Hillier to move forward with plans, which he revised, reducing the footprint of the project.

The Cooperwood will include environmental features such as sod roofs and rainwater harvesting for irrigation and toilets, will be developed on three acres of the 21-acre site. A total of 396 trees will be removed, to be replaced with 241 new trees. The complex will consist of five buildings. Three will be four-stories high and two will be three-stories high. The buildings will be separated by piazzas, small walkways and gardens. Some units look out onto woods; others face gardens. Ground-level units will include patios.

Amenities at the site will include a full-service concierge, a café with a lounge, a health club and meeting rooms. Underground parking for tenants, plus parking for visitors, will total 299 spaces. Parking will be offered for electric cars and there will be a storage area for bikes. The complex, just across the street from Princeton Community Village, will also be reachable via public transportation.

Hillier said 165 people are on a waiting list for units.


  1. Between this project and the one announced last week for faculty housing for the University, it would seem that the Hillier design team has lost all sense of what this community is all about. Hillier called the faculty housing “residential” but it sure looks institutional to me. So do these terrible looking throwbacks to the 50’s.
    Our community deserves better designs!

  2. I understand beauty (design) may be in the eye of the beholder and perhaps “Copperwood” is not “commenter” S. Schreiber’s cup of tea.

    My perspective… it’s pretty difficult to find any individual and or team more committed to the life, safety, welfare, culture, vitality, sustainability, livability, future, and success of the Princeton Community than Hillier. Hillier paid millions for the “Copperwood” land and has preserved, in perpetuity, 15 wooded acres of the total 20 acres. The Princeton community is excited and pleased with “Copperwood”. Evidence includes: 1.) there is a waiting list for these apartments and that’s quite unheard of, and 2.) there was a standing ovation by the community at the municipal approval meeting and that, too, is quite unheard of. I’ve looked at Hillier’s design team and Hillier’s body of work in the Princeton community (including significant work with the hospital and university), and I’ve been lucky enough to visit Hillier’s offices on Witherspoon Street. I can’t imagine an individual and or an organization with a better sense of what this Princeton community is all about. Ref: “Copperwood”… there is a significant apartment shortage and Hillier is building apartments.

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