Letters: Some Residents Urge Officials Not to Settle with AvalonBay

Find Alternatives to AvalonBay

Dear Editor:

I hope the Princeton Council will stand firm in opposition to any further proposal by AvalonBay

1) which advertises its efforts to avoid paying taxes,

2) which is intransigent in negotiations, as shown by the refusal to consider suggestions of citizens and repeated efforts to shut down citizen communication with the Council,

3) its design is outmoded, un-green, & cookie cutter, not designed to complement the surrounding neighborhood or the Master Plan so carefully worked out between the hospital and the town well before the hospital moved to Plainfield or met with AvalonBay,

4) it shades the truth regarding the need for a pool, when the town has just rebuilt its handsome pool right across the street (“AvalonBay always has one”), ability to “do retail” (but they have done it elsewhere), location of possible cesspools (they say that if it smells they will deal with it, rather than look for the cesspool that is thought to be buried under the garage),

5) Regardless of its protestations this project, if completed, will strain municipal services (The 280 units insisted on will accommodate how many  schoolchildren? Use how much water? Produce how much” waste, how much traffic and at what  hours?)…

We can all go on and on discussing these and other items that have surfaced during the year of public comment, but worst of all, Avalon’s approach in every possible way defies and contradicts the community that surrounds it.

1) A concentration of affordable housing such as it offers to counter all objections is no substitute for townwide planning; it is a plug set to backfire.

2) It will not integrate itself into the community; like the towering condos now going vacant on Palmer Square, it will look down on – yes, condescend to — its neighbors.

3) Whatever is built there will increase tax pressure on the existing affordable housing in John Street, which is already driving a slow exodus of blacks who have historically served the community in so many ways. Therefore

4) Anything proposed must offer the benefits of upgraded retail complementing the town’s effort to upgrade the Witherspoon Street corridor.

5) And it must integrate the John St neighborhood, which it faces head on, into the rest of the community by creating permeability and a real park.

I beg the Council to find alternatives; not just settle.


Mary Clurman

AvalonBay Project Would Ruin Vibrancy of Witherspoon Street

To the Editor:

This is our town and we cannot allow some outside corporation or real estate so-called “Trust” to tell us what to do here.

In case nobody has noticed, the central axis of civil society in Princeton is moving from the University-dominated Nassau Street to the full length of Witherspoon St.

Witherspoon Street has a lot of what any town needs for life:  a town hall, a church, a school, a swimming pool, restaurants, small businesses, a neighborhood grocery store, a fine clothing shop, headquarters of a charity, an arts center, and even a graveyard.  There is a bar.  Oh, and I forgot the wonderful town library.  This is only a partial list.  A vibrant mix.

The hospital site is right in the center of all this, and can be thought about as the center of our newly consolidated town.

The massive thing proposed by AvalonBay and wisely rejected by our planning board would deaden the vibrancy by blocking up the area where our real need is for more streets, more connections between neighborhoods, and more choice between types of rental housing.

Yes, we need rental housing, but our town deserves good design.  We reject AvalonBay and what it stands for.

Sarah Hollister

AvalonBay’s Visual Presentations Were Deficient

To the Editor:

Since AvalonBay has appealed the planning board’s denial of its application to build at the old hospital site, both the new planning board and the new Princeton Council are now deliberating their next legal steps.

New members of Council and the planning board have a fundamental civic responsibility to get up to speed on the major issues involved. In particular, they must see and understand the graphic representations and the massing designs of the Avalon project, made “to-scale,” that were shown at several planning board meetings. These were presented by professional Princeton architects Joseph Weiss, Areta Pawlynksy, and Holly Nelson. Words like “monolith” really came to life—so also “scale” and street “frontage”; “shadow” studies revealed how much of the neighborhood would be shaded at various times of day. Everyone understood how overwhelming the Avalon development would be—in ways that the plain words of the site plan ordinance do not. One planning board member who voted for the application even asked, “Is this a destructive development?”—very sharp and worried language from someone who favored the site plan (Harry Cooke for SPRAB told him, “Yes.”)

These illustrations are central to any comprehension of the radically disruptive character of the Avalon wedge in the midst of the Witherspoon Street corridor. Of course AvalonBay itself did not present a single visual representation, including the 1.5 – 2.5 story houses in the surrounding community—that would have helped the planning board and the public understand what they really intended, and still intend. This deficiency in the manner of standard presentations before the planning board was noted by municipal staff (memorandum of December 19) and by the Planning Board in its Resolution memorializing their vote against AvalonBay, in which Attorney Muller wrote that AvalonBay did not provide the Board with “accurate and sufficient information” (p. 36).

Of course AvalonBay dared not shoot itself in the foot by illustrating its fundamental non-compliance with the specific terms of the MRRO site ordinances. Its  appeal brief similarly slides past the sharp discrepancy between their plan and what is legally required by the ordinances by claiming that the language is “vague.”

The visual presentations clearly demonstrate that the language is enforceable. They must be studied (again) by all members of Princeton Council and the planning board: any doubts about the impoverished design should be whisked away. The presentations should also be put forth by both Princeton’s attorneys and admitted into evidence by Judge Mary Jacobson. The architects who made the initial presentations should be permitted to testify in court and to explain what they, as professionals, have done. Any legal deliberations about AvalonBay’s appeal would be incomplete—and legally flawed—without the admission of such visual evidence, powerful as it is. (As in any professional field, it is the expert who should be allowed to make the appropriate presentation. Let AvalonBay try to rebut—if they can. They can’t.

Wendy Ludlum



  1. People: you won. The application was denied. It’s going to court. You can officially stop writing letters now. It’s in the hands of a judge, and he/she isn’t going to base his/her decision on something they read in the comments section of Planet Princeton or in the local newspaper.

  2. One way to visualize the proposed Avalon Princeton. It takes up nearly an entire block on Witherspoon St. It is the large double rectangular building in the mid-bottom of the architectural black and white below. It is locked down to the parking garage at top — the solid block rectangle.

  3. Finally here is a photo of an Avalon complex in Wood-Ridge NJ. Very similar in design with closed rectangles surrounding private interior space. It is somewhat smaller at 260-units. The proposed Avalon Princeton would be 280 units.

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