Made on Palmer Square Housing
After more than 13 years of debate,
Palmer Square Management and the Borough Council have finally
reached a settlement regarding the construction of approximately
100 residential units on Paul Robeson Place.
approval by the Council, Palmer Square will allow the developer
to proceed with the construction of the 97 to 100 housing units,
with 10 units of affordable housing scattered throughout the area.
The new housing will generate at least $60 million in new rateables
for the Borough.
"After working on this throughout
my 13 years as mayor, I'm very pleased to have found a way to
resolve our differences," said Mayor Marvin Reed.
Mayor Reed said that talks between himself, Mayor-Elect Joseph
O'Neill and developer Oded Aboodi restarted about two months ago
when he was approached by Palmer Square Management. Representatives
from the organization told the mayor that if the settlement was
ever to go through, it would most likely happen while he was still
in office, said Mayor Reed.
Wanting to move forward, the
mayor approached Council members and asked if they would be willing
to make compromises to make the settlement finally go through.
They agreed. While only half as many affordable housing units
will be built than was first requested, the mayor said he was
happy to have resolved the matter during his last six weeks in
"There was a lot of give and take," he
said. "[The settlement] is not perfect, but it's practical,
and it will get the job completed."
requires 10 percent of the units go toward municipal affordable
housing mandates. This figure is down from the 20 percent that
the Borough and groups like Princeton Future initially sought.
Princeton Future, established in 2000, is a group of residents
whose goal is focused on Princeton development including downtown
The 97 units, originally
designed by Robert Hillier, has been the subject of a long-term,
The Princeton Regional Planning Board
approved a plan by the Collins Development Corp., now known as
Palmer Square Management, to build 97 residential units, retail
space, and an office complex along undeveloped land near Paul
Robeson Place. Palmer Square constructed the commercial components
of the project, as well as 17 additional units, but did not proceed
constructing the remaining, approved 97 housing units.
mandate contingent under Borough affordable housing codes was
that 20 percent of the units built be put forth as affordable
Palmer Square contended that the Borough's affordable
housing code, known as Mt. Laurel II, came into effect after the
units were approved and subsequently did not apply to any housing
complex built on the privately-owned land. However, the Borough
argued that the grandfather clause to the code had expired and
that if residential development were to occur, it must include
In the end, state law, which now states only
a minimum of 10 percent of housing units must be affordable, ruled
over the argument.
While the housing units will now finally
be built, not all parties involved appear to be pleased with the
"You can't force a private developer
to do what he doesn't want to do," said Robert Goheen of
Princeton Future. "We proposed to Mr. Aboodi another architectural
scheme which put more varied apartments there and would bring
more diversity to that part of town," he said. "But
he chose not to bite on that, I think it would have been a better
However, Mr. Goheen said an end to years
of disagreement would be a welcome change and at the least, a
productive use of land that has been unused for many years.
is a good thing that area that has been unattractive for so long
and looks almost blighted is going to be occupied with people
and people paying rent," he said.
of Princeton Future's is the barrier-effect that structures built
along Paul Robeson Place may pose on the John-Witherspoon neighborhood.
One of the efforts of the group is to change traffic patterns
along the "Paul Robeson Speedway" that effectively creates
a wall between the Palmer Square and the neighborhood that lies
behind it. Princeton Future has aimed to make that area more pedestrian-friendly
for residents crossing Paul Robeson Place into downtown Princeton.
Sheldon Sturges, also of Princeton Future, said that Palmer Square
Management chose to deal only with Borough Council and not listen
to the "one voice" of Princeton as a whole. He addressed
the issue of "opening up" the physical layout of the
units facing Paul Robeson Place. "A better design would open
it up more and not turn it into a gated community for rich people,"
He also addressed the concern that affordable housing
next to luxury housing may reduce the value of the property.
is one of the few places where you can maintain economic values
with different incomes," he said.
Mr. Sturges also
worried that the affordable housing units would not be part of
structures built on Hulfish North, and that they would be "scattered"
elsewhere in Palmer Square.
"We would not want to see
the [affordable housing] units over Etc. Company," he said.
Palmer Square will be required to complete the construction
of the new development within five years of the issuance of a
building permit and approvals by both the Princeton Regional Planning
Board and state agencies.
The affordable housing units
must be built within the area bounded by Nassau, Witherspoon and
Chambers Streets, and Paul Robeson Place. Palmer Square and the
Borough will work cooperatively to produce a pool of candidates
to occupy the affordable housing units, and the final selection
will be made by Palmer Square.
The Borough will receive
a series of payments from Palmer Square to cover the cost of off-site
improvements, and the review and processing of building plans.
This will include $75,000 to be placed in escrow for plan review
and approval, $71,775 for past improvements on Chambers Street,
and $10,000 for improvements on properties on Paul Robeson Place.
Additionally, Palmer Square agreed to pay up to $137,000 for sewer
line upgrades, as well as $300,000 in connection fees.
If approved, the Borough will cooperate with Palmer Square in
expediting approvals for development, and will introduce an ordinance
to allow for stacked parking for the new development site.
The Council will vote on a motion to release the settlement at
its meeting on Tuesday, December 23. It will then hold a public
hearing to adopt the developer's agreement on Tuesday, January