Editorial: Princeton merchants support a two-way Witherspoon Street design that works for all visitors
We write as Princeton business owners and residents, concerned for the future of our fellow merchants and our town. As the Princeton Town Council is currently undertaking efforts to re-design Witherspoon Street at a time that will make or break many of our beloved Princeton businesses, we feel it is important to express our views regarding these re-design efforts.
We all agree: Witherspoon Street needs beautification and improvement. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Witherspoon Street is central to fostering a successful business district. As individuals who have operated stores and restaurants in Princeton for years and experience the realities of the current one-way setup daily, we understand that it is critically important to incorporate the following factors into any re-design of Witherspoon Street:
Avoid decreasing the number of parking spaces. Princeton has a “parking problem,” perceived and real. We can’t afford to exacerbate this issue. We serve clientele who live within walking distance to our shops and many more who don’t, both from Princeton proper and well beyond. Convenient parking is critical to keep customers visiting Princeton’s downtown.
Improve the street’s challenging ingress and egress. Witherspoon Street serves ALL types of visitors: walkers, drivers, bicyclists, people looking for a quick stop, people looking for a longer stay, and people looking to pass through. We must provide convenience for all visitors, not only those privileged enough to use Witherspoon solely as a pedestrian walkway. Witherspoon is one of three main north/south arteries downtown. Decreasing traffic flow there will congest traffic unpredictably, making an already difficult-to-navigate town more so.
Allow for wide traffic lanes. Deliveries occur all day on Witherspoon. Loading zones are required for businesses to accept deliveries and prepare their own outgoing deliveries. Vehicles performing deliveries, grease trap cleaning, and garbage pickup need space to avoid blocking other cars and pedestrian sightlines.
We object to any plan that cannot accommodate these needs, including any plan to close or limit access to Witherspoon Street. As merchants, we strongly support an option that beautifies the street, provides public art space, allows for greater pedestrian safety at designated crossing areas, maintains parking availability, and utilizes two-way vehicular lanes to keep traffic moving and retain the space necessary for commerce to happen.
We dedicate our lives to serving the Princeton community and wouldn’t be where we are without adapting to everyone’s needs. Please hear us when we say that a limited-access Witherspoon Street will drive away businesses like ours and jeopardize the future of the town; our local businesses rely on customers who visit from Princeton and beyond and we need a well-conceived plan that accommodates those customers and fosters a robust business community.
Agricola, Hamilton Jewelers, J. McLaughlin, Jules Thin Crust, Labyrinth Books, Mamoun’s Falafel, Olives, Public Wine Beer and Spirits, Small World Coffee, and Witherspoon Grill/Kristine’s support this letter as merchants, residents, taxpayers, and dreamers who believe in Princeton’s infinite potential, and we hope you hear us so that we may continue to serve Princeton. Please tell the Princeton Town Council that Witherspoon Street must continue to remain open to all.
I live in Montgomery Township. From my perspective the one way design on Witherspoon Street just made visiting the downtown worse.
Interesting. This is important, thank you for writing and for taking comments. I believe there is a way to accommodate *most of* the wishes of the businesses that penned this, and *much* more of the vision of the rest of the residents of Princeton and beyond — who overwhelmingly support a one-way or car-free future for Witherspoon Street. (See the public-facing Princeton Town Council meeting notes, survey, and previous coverage for more on that.) This letter seems to be a flat-out rejection of all proposals except for keeping two-way vehicular traffic. The least popular proposal by far. That’s too bad. I hope there an be the continuation of a public conversation and negotiations around what could be possible, and room for compromise among all folks. Princeton has ample resources. Let’s create a safer, greener, more pedestrian- and consumer-friendly Witherspoon Street corridor — and take care to hear all parties and considerations.
I’m also curious if the business owners can please explain more about why they are in strong favor of a return to two-way vehicular traffic post-covid? Does this have to do with a desire of businesses on *both* sides of the road to have access to parking and also loading areas for deliveries etc? I assume so and would love to hear more, as well as hear more about whether they could see a scenario where they’d be in favor of a one-way car situation that accommodates loading zones on both sides…
Thank you. Best, Alisha (Princeton resident who drives, walks, and bikes downtown — and who never found parking on Witherspoon pre-covid, anyway)
Princeton does have a parking problem: people drive around several blocks several times looking for that elusive on-street parking space, contributing to congestion and air pollution, instead of going straight into the garage.
However, Parking Study has shown that Princeton does not have a shortage of parking space. There are 474 spaces in the Spring Street garage alone, a stone’s throw from the section of Witherspoon Street under discussion, where pre-covid there were a total of 23 parking spaces.
Historically, few merchants support pedestrianizing a street before the fact. But in case after case, study after study, business increases post-pedestrianization. One can look at examples world-wide, from Copenhagen to Santa Monica to New York City. Make downtown Princeton a destination instead of a drive-through!
These are wonderful businesses. They strengthen the Witherspoon corridor and help support the entire Princeton community. With this in mind, I’d like to respectfully respond to some points made in the article:
-According to recent studies, the nearby parking garages do not often hit capacity – even on weekends. The article refers to parking problems that are sometimes “perceived”. But perception should not shape our public policy, or the way that we allocate public space. There are more than 7,000 total parking spaces in the central business district (with just 23 of them on Witherspoon between Nassau and Spring).
-In recent years, Small World has hosted, in conjunction with the Arts Council, a very pleasant “parklet” outside the Witherspoon location. What are normally parking spots have become places for customers to gather, drink coffee, and eat food. The annual return of this parklet would suggest that removing some street parking has done little harm to commerce.
-On that note, Witherspoon Grill and Kristine’s help to anchor Hinds Plaza – a former parking lot, and now one of Princeton’s most beloved car-free public spaces. What makes the outdoor dining experience so special is that you are removed from the traffic and not on top of it. Moreover, customers with cars are able to park in the adjacent Spring St. garage.
-The article suggests that a pedestrian-friendly Witherspoon St. would only benefit those living in Princeton’s downtown core. But support for a re-design is more widespread. In a petition we started just a few weeks ago, more than 600 people have already called for change: https://chng.it/VTpFGfhF. Most of them are Princeton residents, from all different parts of town. But it’s worth noting that our petition also carries support from folks in Montgomery, West Windsor, Pennington, Lawrenceville, and beyond.
Princeton is not New York City, or Copenhagen, or Santa Monica. Princeton does not have the scale or infrastructure to be like these other places. We also don’t have numerous roads that are arteries like these places do. Of course our businesses would want more business. They have already seen the effects of the one-way change and maybe we should believe them when they ask us to listen.
It is essential that Town Council listen to the voice of the Witherspoon Street businesses when deciding what changes, if any, to make to traffic flow, parking, pedestrian access and more. So in that regard, this statement by several of the affected businesses should be valuable input into the decision making process.
That being said, what a curious editorial this is! The first main point, beautification of Witherspoon Street, is spot on. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the creation of outdoor dining spaces on Witherspoon was critical to restaurant survival. But having said that, it sure as hell wasn’t pretty. Unfortunately, having stated the obvious, the editorial goes downhill quite rapidly after that.
“Avoid decreasing the number of parking spaces?” To be sure, downtown Princeton is parking-challenged, but in my 65 years of living in Princeton and surrounding communities, I have never in my life uttered the words “I am going to park on Witherspoon Street.” Finding a parking spot on Witherspoon is like findingThe Holy Grail in a dumpster behind A&B. Not freakin’ likely. Seriously, two dozen always-full parking spaces are the least of this town’s concerns.
“Improve the street’s challenging ingress and egress” is a puzzling statement, especially in light of the demands at the end of the editorial. Have any of the authors of this screed actually walked, driven or bicycled on the pre-Covid Witherspoon Street? Narrow traffic lanes, narrow sidewalks and the occasional traffic clog caused by a delivery vehicle double-parked in the street while unloading made Witherspoon a street to avoid. The old Witherspoon Street did not work for anyone. As for the snarky comment that “We must provide convenience for all visitors, not only those privileged enough to use Witherspoon solely as a pedestrian walkway,” I have absolutely no words, just amazement. How is walking a privilege? It is the only way to access the businesses on Witherspoon effectively. The street and sidewalks are too narrow for bikes, too narrow for cars and too narrow for those nasty privileged pedestrians. Which brings us to the last point.
“Allow for wide traffic lanes.” HOW??? You could get wide traffic lanes by eliminating parking. Oops, that violates the first point of the editorial. You could get wide traffic lanes by eliminating the sidewalks. At least that way the businesses wouldn’t have to deal with those privileged pedestrians any more. Or you could make Witherspoon one-way, but again, the editorialists have decreed that Witherspoon must remain two-way. The only way to meet this requirement then is to tear off 20 feet from the front of every building on Witherspoon so that the right-of-way can be widened. I doubt if that would be helpful to the businesses, not to mention people living above those businesses. Seriously, dudes. What are you thinking?
As a long-time Princeton (and longer-time Princeton area) resident, I have travelled on Witherspoon Street countless times. Pre-Covid, I didn’t mind the narrow sidewalks as I walked up from my home to the University, Small World or Olives. I preferred not to drive there, and if I did need to take a car, I’d park in a lot or on Palmer Square, or even in front of Firestone Library on Nassau. When I was in PHS, I thought nothing of biking on Witherspoon, though my much older self prefers someplace less congested these days. The section of Witherspoon Street from Nassau down to Hinds Plaza is a natural pedestrian thoroughfare. Traffic flows may dictate ending the pedestrian area at Spring Street, as it is now, not least of all to enable the parking garage access off Spring. But the garage also has access from behind the Library, so that’s just a detail to work out, not a show-stopper.
The one thorny detail that is critical to the success of any plan for Witherspoon is the loading zone access to local businesses. This would dictate specific times during the day when delivery vehicles could travel on Witherspoon, presumably in a one-way direction. Whether that’s from Spring to Nassau or from Nassau to Spring is something for traffic engineers to figure out with an eye toward pedestrian safety on either end. Unfortunately there are no back alleys for Witherspoon businesses, so most deliveries must be made from the street. But I suggest that deliveries will be much easier from a more empty morning pedestrian zone than from the mess you’d find on the pre-Covid Witherspoon Street.
Obviously businesses on Witherspoon Street are suffering, along with many others around the world. The Coronavirus-related changes we’ve had to deal with over the past 9 months have made life difficult for everyone. Any plans for the improvement of Witherspoon Street must be mindful of the small businesses on the street and the need to avoid financial impact wherever possible. But it is counterproductive to paint a Pollyanna picture of how Witherspoon Street was before we all started wearing masks. A properly designed pedestrian zone will attract diners, shoppers and visitors and make the Princeton downtown a better place for all.
Go to other towns like Lambertville or New Hope. They have vibrant downtowns that look nice and clean. Before the change to one way on that stretch of Witherspoon and now even more so after, it looks dumpy. It is not well maintained by the town since consolidation. Prior to consolidation, the center of town was maintained much better. Before a permanent change is rammed through, people should listen to the businesses’ concerns. They are smart people with the experience and data to know how things are working. They want their businesses to be successful. They wouldn’t oppose something that was going to be great for business. As an aside, I’ve sat out there on Witherspoon since the change and I really don’t enjoy it. The experience is not pleasant. I have started avoiding that area. Friends who live in the neighborhood also say all the traffic that used to travel on Witherspoon has been diverted onto their side streets. I agree that something should be done to make biking and walking safer in town but think that requires a major cultural shift and educating drivers.
I am one of those frequent visitors from out of town–PA–who regularly supports the businesses on Witherspoon St. I have spent more time and money since the pandemic began specifically because of how nice it is to be there since the street dining and one-way format with *less* cars. The people who wrote this letter sound like fearful NIMBYs who don’t know their own customers. I park a block or two away or in the garage. For years, as a frequent visitor, I never ever consider parking on Witherspoon because there are never spots there, the garage is more convenient, and because I enjoy *walking* in your beautiful town, which has become more pleasant since the one way design. The businesses who sponsored this letter sound like they have been brainwashed by the fearmongering that typically occurs whenever road use is reallocated to pedestrians. Once business increases from the enjoyment of actually being there, worries about the “parking problem” subside. Because a real parking problem is the kind where you have empty parking spaces without enough customers to fill them.
My family enjoys supporting your town. For once, you have town planners that actually recognize the value of their unique and pretty walkable streets and did something positive to build on it. You should appreciate it because that is what attracts visitors like us. We could walk through a busy town with lots of traffic without making the trip all the way to Princeton. Parking lots and traffic-oriented infrastructure is everywhere. Walmart has plenty of parking. I hope you understand that we come to Princeon and spend our money with joy there for the feel and beauty, not for the parking.
Remember when they were planning the new Lewis Arts Complex and promised the area would be a vibrant pedestrian neighborhood with tons of activity, stores, cafes, and performances? We were told it would be like Princeton’s version of Lincoln Center. Pre-pandemic and now, it is one of the deadest areas of town. No activitiy, and it has just made the walk to the Dinky more cumbersome. So beware of promises that something is going to make things robust and wonderful. We were sold that bill of goods back when the Dinky was moved. Unfortunately many businesses and nonprofits bought into it hook line and sinker.
Disagree. Business will INCREASE if they close the street permanently. Look at Division Street in Somerville. Turn this street into a pedestrian mall and we will all benefit.
The merchants that signed the letter would like to have their cake and eat it too: wider sidewalks, plenty of parking, outdoor tables, loading zones, and two-way traffic. On Witherspoon Street? Not likely. If the experience of the last 6 months has taught us something, it is that if you give people public space, they will use it enthusiastically, even if it is improvised and rather unattractive. The idea that the few parking spaces on Witherspoon are VITAL to the economic viability of the local businesses is total nonsense. Nobody expects to find a parking space on Witherspoon. The town’s very expensive and comprehensive recent parking study demonstrated conclusively that Princeton doesn’t have a downtown parking problem, but rather a parking management problem. This is usually the case. I, and many others, strongly favor closing Witherspoon down to vehicular traffic and making it pedestrian only. You don’t have to go to Europe to experience this — just go to nearby Somerville and check out Division Street — the liveliest street in their downtown, and created well before Covid. Maybe the Princeton merchants should contact their counterparts on Division Street and learn from their experience. Maybe Princeton should invite a representative from Somerville to speak on their experience. Ironically, the loading and unloading of merchandise becomes so much easier when the street is pedestrianized, as delivery vehicles, along with emergency services continue to have access. Wake up downtown merchants — its the 21st century. Cars are nasty, smelly and dangerous. Get them off the street.
I read the comments against the position of the article. They are more than correct. This business group is interested in clogging up Witherspoon Street with delivery trucks, vans of delivery, and parking for those delivery trucks and vans. It has created complete chaos. Not because we put in a one-way street but because they allow parking on the street without regulation. This caused a flood of trucks and vans in and out and parking way beyond a takeout time of 10 minutes.
This parking is presently allowed with no rules and more importantly no ordinance regulating the times for pick-up, delivery of product and garbage pick-up. There should also be ancillary ordinances for the entire regulation of the street. An ordinance regulating these matters is mandatory for the Pedestrian Thoroughfare to run properly. We know this works throughout New Jersey, the Country, and the World.
Why do certain business people want to eliminate a Pedestrian Thoroughfare?
These particular business owners would use the space for parking for hours without paying anything to the town and would also have their delivery vans and cars sitting in the area for hours. This is completely outrageous conduct. Princeton wants the street to be a Pedestrian Thoroughfare, meaning essentially for the beauty, cleanliness, and safety so when you are shopping or eating, you are not subject to car and truck fumes or people walking in and out of traffic. The Pedestrian Thoroughfare would also allow for one lane without any parking and strategic places for pick up on the North and South ends of Witherspoon running from Nassau to Hulfish.
This business group that wrote this article also knows this, but they are using this as their parking area for their tenants and are at least fearful, selfish and inconsiderate in not allowing the pedestrians of Princeton to use this as a Pedestrian Thoroughfare.
It’s time for Princeton to move on and to eliminate this two way street for a more modern thoroughfare.
There is another business group, building owner and tenants on Witherspoon street that differ completely from this business group dramatically and will be writing their own article in various papers.
If you are for the Pedestrian Thoroughfare, I suggest you sign your name on the petition below that I have linked.
Somerville has much wider streets and has several main arteries in town, and so does Red Bank. The shop owners are not just commenting about parking. They have experience from the past several months that they are basinc their opinions on. They don’t want to have their cake and eat it to. The ones that depend on visitor getting take out are barely hanging on right now, and were struggling with the soaring rents before the pandemic. People want Princeton to have a vibrant Main Street area, yet so much hostility toward the very businesses that have been committed to the town and make it special, and zero compassion for them..Some business owners say they saw a major drop in business after the one-way street was instituted (Planet Princeton should investigate this). Sure let’s drive out the local businesses and have more tourist traps like Kilwins Fudge…
This (Townie comments about the Lewis Arts Complex). A thousand times this. We were going to have festivals, art shows, and live performances in the plaza. Parents were going to get hot chocolates for their children at the Wawa and then ride the train for fun. Even the fabulous Maya Lin and Ai Wei Wei can’t save it. It is dead. Think if they had put housing there instead. Housing that would have been within walking distance of town. Housing to support the rail. Oh well. I understand the desire for a pedestrian utopia, but if the businesses fail, there won’t be any reason to go into town by any mode of transportation. The idea that we suddenly will have outdoor art and music doesn’t seem realistic. We could have it now if there were the will, but we don’t. Part of the charm of the town has been its historic nature and small scale. I fear we run the risk of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. It was eye-opening to me to learn that most Princeton businesses say that they cannot survive by the support of Princeton residents only. We need our visitors to support and enjoy our local businesses or they won’t exist for us, and those visitors arrive predominantly by auto. Don’t we have to trust that businesses understand their customers? I hope everyone who is commenting also supports the local merchants. Prior to the pandemic, I walked, drove, and spent money in town every single day, often multiple times a day. No more. The temporary design doesn’t allow for pedestrians to safely distance from non-mask wearers, and the deteriorating conditions strike me as a health risk. I never see anyone cleaning. The swirl of leaves and trash around the permanently filled bike racks is disappointing bordering on disgusting. One final thought: we need to consider safety. Witherspoon is a main arterial situated between a huge swath of town and the hospital. Vandeventer has become a 2-light wait at Nassau. I think we will be forcing a good amount of traffic onto Chambers, Hodge, and Robeson/Wiggins (which I thought we wanted to improve for bicycles.) A lot to consider.
Many of these commenters here have already made the points I wanted to make, especially Dennis, Brian and Planning Aficionado.
This group of merchants seems to be stubbornly resistant to the possibility that a pedestrian plaza could be BETTER for their foot traffic and their bottom lines. I’m not sure why they assume this change will be bad for them. Pedestrian plazas make for pleasant destinations, where people want to walk around, spend time and spend money.
Hinds Plaza is a great example, and it’s right next to the area in question. There are no street parking spots on Hinds Plaza, yet the restaurants on the square are thriving. I have never heard of anyone complaining that they don’t go to Witherspoon Grill or Kristine’s or the library because there’s no on-street parking. That just doesn’t make sense.
How many pedestrian plazas do you see that are surrounded by shuttered stores? Is there a SINGLE example anyone can name of a pedestrianization project that HURT businesses around it? On the contrary, pedestrian streets and pedestrian plazas in downtown areas are busy, thriving and desirable. There is no reason – none at all – to be afraid that pedestrianizing a busy downtown street will damage the street’s commerce. It would be a truly unprecedented development.
(By the way, the “pedestrians are just privileged” line in the letter is really something else!)
I‘m a longtime resident. I’m in town at least three times a day. I walk in at least once and I drive in. I drink coffee here. I buy lunch here. I buy clothes here. I buy lottery tickets here. I eat dinner here. You get the point. I’ve been doing this for twenty-five years. I use town. I really use town. I don’t wish it were somewhere else, I use it, I know it, I like it. I’ve also led large projects and developed urban planning concepts that are still in use by the state of New Jersey. I have a feel for how things work and how things don’t work.
Princeton is at its worst when solving problems with a “known” solution. Think about this time last year when we couldn’t park because of our new poorly thought through parking solution. What were we solving? We don’t seem to know how it happened, it just appeared and it didn’t work, really didn’t work.
Now we are getting ready to apply the “known” solution to the Witherspoon Street problem. I’ve never quite understood “the Witherspoon Street problem” but none the less, we have a solution. The “known” solution is Witherspoon Street should have no cars and be for pedestrians only. I know there are other alternates but that’s the “known” answer.
Plans for projects as complex and strategic as changing a north south arterial road require significant planning. It’s hard. Planning during a pandemic is fraught with problems. It’s harder. You’re measuring an artificial construct. Through traffic is off. Pedestrian traffic is off. University traffic is off. Everything is off. But wait, I’m falling into a trap, the trap of defending against the “known” solution.
I’ve seen suggestions that we follow the lead of other towns. Think about scale – scale is important. Princeton isn’t Santa Monica. Other towns strive to be a place like Princeton. We got here organically. It took centuries. We shouldn’t be so anxious to fix Witherspoon Street.
Have you turned left on to Nassau from Chambers? We‘ve eliminated a north south arterial road. Where will traffic go? Have you seen those poor devils on Witherspoon trying to unload trucks during the day? We’re a vibrant town because our shops and restaurants have in town and further from town visitors. People drive to Princeton, park and walk. Princeton is already a walkable town.
What do we really need? We need parking. There aren’t 7,000 parking spaces. We need to keep Witherspoon two way so we can get in and out of town. We need to make the most of what we have. The COVID configuration is empty during most weekday mornings and afternoons. It certainly needs to be prettier and cleaner.
Importantly, we need to keep our remaining merchants whole and attract new merchants to join them. Closing the main shopping street is not in their or our best interest.
“All pedestrian plazaa are successul” – simply not true. You can Google places where they are not working out. Just one example, Jersey City. https://jerseydigs.com/vacant-storefronts-along-jersey-city-pedestrian-plaza-growing-pains/
When a developer proposes a sizeable project, all towns require a traffic study. Most towns will not accept studies done during the summer because they do not represent typical traffic volumes because people are away on vacation and there are no school buses running.
Why, then, would Princeton Electeds even consider a change of this magnitude without a traffic study conducted during normal (post-pandemic) traffic conditions?
I’m surprised that the merchants saying their businesses have hurt and they have fewer out-of-town customers attribute this to the one-way street rather than to… COVID-19.
All our consumer patterns have recently changed. People don’t want to walk into shops. I buy coffee only at the Nassau street coffee shop because there you can order outside. Never at the Witherspoon location where you have to go in. This is not because of parking or lack thereof!
I also order books much more from Labyrinth, because I want to help local businesses — to be clear, I am buying books I would previously have borrowed from the library, just to help.
Our whole lives have changed due to COVID-19. Students are not on campus, people are sheltering in place, out of town people may be, like us, trying to shop more locally to support their own community (hence they don’t come to Princeton). All this is not because of the one way street! (Labyrinth isn’t even close to the one-way section). It is all due to COVID-19.
I am really dismayed and disappointed that our beloved business owners would make this incorrect attribution, blaming those who live here for being privileged and trying to ruim their businesses when actually we’re doing our very best (including with donations, stopping to buy on Amazon, etc.) to do the exact opposite. Nice way of thanking us for our custom.
Hi, I’d like to respond to the issue raised as to use of Witherspoon Street (the section from Nassau St to Hulfish Street). I have been a resident of Princeton since 1999 & WHOLLY applaud the folks who operate businesses and reside at that section of Witherspoon St in their efforts to convert that section to a solely daytime pedestrian zone! I grew up in Chapel Hill NC, another college town which has a huge restaurant/bar downtown area, and I appreciate the unique qualities of same. The pandemic has essentially converted Witherspoon (from Nassau to Hulfish) into a pedestrian/car-free zone already. PLEASE convert it permanently to a pedestrian zone entirely. Allow truck deliveries during morning times and otherwise
keep this section pedestrian only. There are THREE parking garages in easy walking distance and no reason I can see to allow traffic (which always piles up on this section due to PEDESTRIANS) to cont. using Witherspoon as a way out of town. PLEASE, look at similar planning solutions, e.g. Somerville, NJ, etc. Thanks. Tim Hiskey, 709 Cherry Hill Road, Princeton.
A charming, pedestrian-friendly, destination downtown for Princeton will make the town more attractive to visit and help small businesses.
We all want a vibrant downtown Princeton that serves community members well – including residents and business owners – as well as attracting visitors from out of town. And really, the solution is to have more liquor licenses. I think it’s that simple. Our town leaders should be lobbying the state for changes to the liquor laws, and exemptions that allow more restaurants to serve alcohol. Alcohol sales provide significant profit to restaurants and allowing more licenses would create more diversity in the type and price point of our restaurants. Having more and varied restaurants would bring in even more people, and this of course would help our struggling retailers. I really wish someone would focus on this as I think it would significantly help our town’s business owners. The Witherspoon issue is minor compared to this IMO.
It is hard to imagine why Witherspoon businesses would be against seeing the street become a pedestrian mall. I’m not in retail but it seems to me the only way our town as a whole can compete with Amazon is to offer an experience, something you can’t get online. I would think Princeton merchants would be pushing the town council to make sure our town is brimming with uniqueness so townies and visitors alike find a visit to town fills in the voids left by the experience of online shopping or trips to shopping malls or other towns. Princeton’s beautiful, strollable layout with the gems of palmer square, the plaza in front of Mediterra and Hinds plaza could be further enhanced with a Witherspoon pedestrian mall to truly set Princeton apart as a destination worth visiting. Give people a place to stroll and congregate and feel some plaza culture and they will be pulled to the sense of a “real”, vibrant community where they will naturally wish to spend more time and inevitably buy more, eat more and drink more. And a good point made in a previous comment regarding loosening alcohol, or at least beer and wine sales. The extreme cost of liquor licensing leads to extreme meal and alcohol pricing, limited variations of dining experiences (all high end) and $125 Tuesday date nights. Perhaps our creative town leaders could work with state officials to expand the small wineries program which allows for limited sales of NJ wines in a handful of BYO restaurants into a pilot program in Princeton where all BYO restaurants could serve all NJ beer and NJ wine (not just the micro labels) with meals. This might help those BYO restaurants who struggle with few customers on nights even when the restaurants with full liquor licenses have 2hr waiting lists. More than any issue with parking the crazy waiting times for restaurant tables discourages me from visiting town on weekend evenings. With so many store vacancies suggesting town retail is in trouble while the demand for dining and a social experience seem to have no limit, it would make sense to consider creating more areas for social gathering and expanding the variety of restaurants where patrons can enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their meals.
You don’t even have to look that far. Trenton turned the shopping section of State Street into a pedestrian plaza. It died. It took a couple of decades to undo the mistake.
First, kudos to our current council for looking at problems with fresh eyes and being willing to try out different solutions.
However, I agree with these merchants that converting one of our three north-south arteries to one-way or pedestrian-only will be a mistake. Navigating through downtown is already a challenge. Don’t make it harder.
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