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Fire Destroys Avalon Apartment Complex in Edgewater

A extra-alarm fire destroyed an apartment complex and left hundreds of people homeless Wednesday evening in Edgewater. The complex was built by AvalonBay, the developer of the downtown hospital site in Princeton. The company also owns and operates five other apartment complexes in the area in Lawrence, Plainsboro, West Windsor and Somerset.

The fire began around 4:30 p.m. and quickly spread in the complex made of lightweight wood construction, fire officials told reporters. By late evening, the fire stretched for three city blocks and a state of local emergency was declared by the mayor of the town. The fire grew so large that the flames were visible from Midtown Manhattan and were picked up on the weather radar Wednesday night.

No serious injuries have been reported. About 1,000 people were displaced by the fire.

Another major fire at the site in 2000 destroyed a $70 million apartment complex that was under construction called Avalon River Mews.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Genuinely Concerned

    To my knowledge, no one from Council has yet jumped in to inform either that Avalon voluntarily will use more fire resistant construction here, or that Princeton has a more strenuous code. I therefore suspect this is and should be a serious concern. I respectfully submit that Council is obligated to address the issue, and to communicate about it publicly using every media available including these pages, as soon as possible.

  • Concerned

    Residents organized, wrote op letters in local papers, attended and spoke out at municipal meetings and pleaded with council and engineering at numerous decision points in the process to hold Avalon to standards and/or pursue alternatives to Avalon. In the end, our elected officials cowed to legal threats and bullying by Avalon (aggressive legal tactics are another Avalon MO – you can google that, too) and also Avalon lawyers and PR spun the story that all the huff was just because the snobby Princeton residents just don’t like development that includes low income units (although many of the so-called “anti-Avalon activists” have also been activists FOR more affordable housing in town). The lack of spine shown by our town reps at several decision points was indeed shameful.

  • Marc Monseau

    If they are using the same construction method here in Princeton, shame on the town council for and engineering department for failing to demand they build to a higher standard — particularly given Avalon Bay’s track record.

  • Marc Monseau

    This is extremely concerning. Does anyone know if the Avalon Bay complex in Princeton is going to likewise have a “”lightweight” wood construction with a truss-style of roof?”

  • concerned

    Google “avalon safety” and “avalon violations”. Princeton should have done better than ending up with this company.

  • PrincetonDemocrat

    More, from http://www.nj.com/…/more_than_1000_homeless_after… : “When Edgewater firefighters arrived on scene, sprinklers were activated and spraying water throughout the massive luxury complex, Edgewater Fire Chief Tom Jacobson said. He attributed the rapid pace of the inferno, which was first spotted on the first floor, to “lightweight” wood construction with a truss-style of roof.
    “If it was made out of concrete and cinder block, we wouldn’t have this sort of problem,” he said.
    Asked if he would live in a complex made of wood, Jacobson refused to answer.
    The building was up to code, officials said.”

  • Never_Speechless

    Same type of construction for ALL avalon properties and ALL UDR properties as well. All these newer type multi million dollar properties coming up along highways are made all the same. All funded with HUD loans from the government. The gov could step in and require certain things if they wanted to but remember it would not be in their benefit to do so. More fires means more loans and more construction. Big business.

  • Never_Speechless

    Correction needed: Over 1000 people were displaced. 400 units.

  • PrincetonDemocrat

    Is Avalon using the same kind of construction here in Princeton? If so, it’ll be a disaster waiting to happen. The first time the Edgewater complex burned, it destroyed a dozen other homes in the neighborhood (no word on how many this time). I shudder to imagine what a fire like this would do to the surrounding neighborhood in Princeton. What kinds of fire codes govern structures like these? In Edgewater, the codes were either violated, or grossly inadequate. – Dan Preston

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