Letters: Developer AvalonBay Not Sensitive to Princeton Community’s Interests at Hospital Site

To the Editor:

Responding to one of the “Frequently Asked Questions” posted on the Princeton Healthcare System website “What will happen to the site of the original hospital?”,  Barry Rabner, President and CEO  responds: “After a careful process, during which approximately 125 potential purchasers expressed interest in the Witherspoon Street property, we have reached an agreement with AvalonBay Communities Inc. to buy the current hospital along with nine homes that Princeton HealthCare System owns along Harris Road. We selected AvalonBay because it was important for us to find a buyer that would be an excellent community partner. The company has extensive experience in developing sites like ours, and their representatives demonstrated sensitivity to the interests of the community and the neighbors who live near projects they have developed in the past.”

It would be interesting to know the scope of the “careful process” and due diligence performed by the UHCS that supports Mr. Rabner’s confidence in making that bold assertion – what other “community and neighbors who live near projects” developed by AvalonBay support that claim?  One is hard pressed to find any such evidence when searching the web.

One wonders if Mr. Rabner still stands by his assertion that AvalonBay is ‘an excellent community partner” and whether he still believes AvalonBay has “demonstrated sensitivity to the interests of the community and the neighbors.” The residents of Princeton can attest to the fact that AvalonBay has not been sensitive to the interests of our community as expressed in our community master plan and Princeton Borough code.

Instead of a development that incorporates linked public open space and green construction (requirements of Borough code), Avalon’s site plan calls for a single 280-apartment monolith — an over 360,000 square foot wood-framed building on less than 6 acres of land (50 units per acre). This is a development for which AvalonBay promises “zero” LEED construction.  This private “community” is diametrically opposed to and destroys Princeton’s vision for a rejuvenated Witherspoon Street created as a result of more than two years of community-wide meetings. A mixed-use redevelopment with public parks and playgrounds, walkways, and neighborhood-friendly retail was envisioned when the MRRO zone was created in consultation with hospital officials. The MRRO zone was designed specifically for the old hospital building site on Witherspoon Street in 2006.  The community knows what it wants and the developer refuses to listen. Princeton can and must do better.

“Excellent community partner” sensitive “to the interests of the community”?  AvalonBay is not.


Kate Warren