Developer AvalonBay will voluntarily enhance the fire protection systems at the future Princeton apartment development on Witherspoon Street to comply with a national fire protection standard that is greater than what is required by the current state building code.
AvalonBay will use fire protection systems in its Princeton and Maplewood developments that comply with the National Fire Protection Association Standard known as NFPA 13.
The company will incorporate more sprinklers throughout the building, including in the attics, closet spaces and between the ceilings and floors. In addition, the company will upgrade the fire safety for these buildings by installing masonry firewalls, which are not required for this building type by the current building code or NFPA 13.
“AvalonBay’s decision to voluntarily hold themselves to a higher standard when building these communities is a very positive development for the Princeton and Maplewood communities,” said New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable.
Several sources confirmed today that a representative from AvalonBay met with state and county officials, including Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, yesterday.
“This clearly makes a safer building, which was what I was looking for in the first place. Princeton is still probably going to have a problem — some people in Princeton will always have a problem with the project. It is a big project, but it is also an important project,” Huges said tonight.
“AvalonBay has put a lot of thought into this project. They’ve talked to people from the state, they’ve talked to me, they’ve talked to officials in Bergen County. They’ve added sprinklers and better firewalls. That is what we wanted,” Hughes said. “They have voluntarily chosen to do things they don’t have to do. In a lot of significant ways, they have stepped up to the plate and taken steps they didn’t have to take.”
Bergen County Executive James Tedesco made similar remarks.
“This is a great step. AvalonBay is going beyond existing building codes to better protect both people and property in these new units,” Tedesco said.
AvalonBay Senior Vice President Ron Ladell said the company is enthusiastic about its future in New Jersey.
“By continuing to work with local governmental and community leaders throughout New Jersey, we will continue to build distinctive, welcoming and safe communities,” Ladell said in a prepared statement.
AvalonBay built the 408-unit Avalon at Edgewater apartment complex in Edgewater, Bergen County that was destroyed by a five-alarm blaze Jan. 21. Maintenance men accidentally sparked the fire at the Edgewater complex and displaced about 1,000 people. Two unlicensed workers doing plumbing accidentally started the blaze with a blowtorch.
The lightweight wood construction used to build the Edgewater complex complied with state code. In the wake of the fire, Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R- Passaic, Bergen, Essex and Morris) has proposed halting all multi-family developments in New Jersey until the state’s building code can be revised.
As of Dec. 31 of 2014, AvalonBay owned or held a direct or indirect ownership interest in 277 apartment communities containing 82,487 apartment homes in eleven states and the District of Columbia, of which 26 communities were under construction and eight communities were under reconstruction.