Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 17
 
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
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Princeton Future Hosts Neighborhood Talk About Former Olive May Site

Dilshanie Perera

Over 70 local residents attended the Princeton Future meeting at the Chestnut Street Firehouse on Monday night to strategize possibilities for the former Olive May and West Coast Video sites on the south side of Nassau Street near Murray Place.

The meeting was a first step in determining whether an agreement could be reached regarding a neighborhood vision for the space that could eventually lead to discussions and partnerships with the landowners should the requisite parties be interested.

Resident Ryan Lilienthal explained that a survey had been mailed to over 650 residents in the area surrounding the site asking how they might like to utilize and interact with the space.

The survey was formulated and is being conducted by Larry Hugick and Jonathan Best of Princeton Survey Research Associates in collaboration with Mr. Lilienthal and Princeton Future Managing Director Sheldon Sturges.

Data obtained from the survey will show whether there is some degree of consensus among residents, allowing them to organize and “share those ideas with the owners regarding what could be successful,” while also determining “what types of business a local resident would patronize, and the types of things they would oppose.”

“The overall hope is that we could work together to find an idea that would prove profitable for the property owners and be consistent with the desires of the neighborhood,” Mr. Lilienthal added.

During the meeting, attendees expressed the desire for a food-related store on site. “While there has been a continuity with various supermarkets, there is still a feeling that there is a demand there for that type of business,” Mr. Lilienthal said, referring to Davidson’s and Wild Oats, the tenants that formerly occupied the store most recently inhabited by Olive May. “As a resident, that’s something I’d be interested in.”

“We see it as a real opportunity. There is a missing element there,” he continued, adding that people are also interested in spaces to congregate, and green space.

Mr. Sturges affirmed that there is “definite interest in a food market on the site, whether it is a full-fledged supermarket, or a convenience-type store.” Adding a residential component to any new development would be of interest to some neighbors as well.

Resident concerns include large bulk, and anything that would bring a lot of traffic to the space, Mr. Lilienthal noted.

Planning Board member Marvin Reed, who was also at the meeting, said that the brainstorming session was “reacting to potential development on the site,” reasoning that “if either landlord can figure out who to lease the property to, at the kind of rent they can get, they’ll go ahead and do that.”

However, “in the absence of real action in renting them, it would appear that either owner may make a deal,” and incorporate some requests from neighbors, Mr. Reed said.

If new additions were made to the Olive May/West Coast Video site, they would likely come before the Regional Planning Board, and possibly the Zoning Board and Site Plan Review Advisory Board for approval.

Borough Councilman Kevin Wilkes said that “I am certain that Borough officials would work with a creative solution for that site … We have our ears open.”

Characterizing the meeting as “an attempt at pre-planning community involvement,” Mr. Wilkes remarked that “normally, community involvement musters itself in the face of a proposal [brought to the Planning Board], but this is prior to that. It’s less charged.”

For now, survey data will be analyzed to see whether there is any consensus among the neighbors, and findings will be presented to the master plan subcommittee of the planning board.

The next Princeton Future meeting will be on May 15 at 9 a.m. at the Princeton Public Library. The public is invited to attend.

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