Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 7
 
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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Borough, Businesses Face Tough Economy

Dilshanie Perera

Saying there would be difficult decisions to make in the coming months, Mayor Mildred Trotman addressed local merchants about the state of the Borough Tuesday during the Borough Merchants For Princeton’s monthly meeting. Her speech generated a dialogue between business owners who assessed the economic climate from their respective vantage points.

“Princeton Borough is not immune from the rest of the country, and we’re going to have to work together to make [the current economic situation] work for all of us,” Ms. Trotman noted in a telephone interview. “I would like to see the merchants not just survive, but also thrive.”

Responding to a question by Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi, who asked how local businesses were doing after assessing their post-holiday numbers, owner of The Place To Bead Doris Figueroa noted that her business is down 20 percent from last year. “I hear the news saying everyone is suffering, and we’re certainly feeling that,” she said.

Mark Censits, owner of CoolVines, which opened in August, characterized the town as “still very much alive, and spunky” though people may have “traded down” in products they were purchasing.

Having closed the Tulane Street parking lot last July, Mr. Bruschi reported that parking revenues are at or above those of last year, adding that the downtown “seemed to be busy with people.”

Nonetheless, David Newton of Palmer Square Management noted that on the whole, Palmer Square was down about seven percent for the year, remarking that if one looked at the statistics for October through December alone, the decrease would be “more significant.”

Participants at the meeting agreed that they would have to work together to weather the economic downturn. President and CEO of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce Peter Crowley emphasized that fostering connections and partnerships is important.

Kristin Appelget, Director of the University’s Office of Community and Regional Affairs, encouraged merchants to collaborate with the University to tackle mutual challenges in a creative way. She added that it would certainly be beneficial to develop a relationship with the 5,400 employees and staff members of the University, most of whom live in the region.

Regarding the Borough’s budget, Ms. Trotman said that “we have to make the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make in my 25 years.” Foremost, is keeping tax rates low, she explained, adding that the municipality has been in contact with area mayors, and the county, state, and federal governments regarding the stimulus package, though precise amounts of money coming in from the state have yet to be determined.

Work continues to be done on building projects in the downtown area, Ms. Trotman reported, saying that the first set of units on the Hulfish North project are scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, and all 100 units will be complete by 2011.

Phase II of the downtown redevelopment project is currently underway, and is expected to be complete by the fall of next year, Ms. Trotman said.

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Regarding transportation updates, merchants agreed that the Borough’s e-mail notification system has been helpful in informing them about road closures and redirected traffic. Currently, Paul Robeson Place is seeing some renovations happen underground, a project that Ms. Trotman expects will be completed in five to six weeks, with the roadway expected to be open to two-way traffic sooner.

Though the particulars of the Borough’s budget proposal for 2009 are still being discussed, Ms. Trotman envisioned a general scaling back of all of the Borough’s programs.

“We can identify with each department, and we do so appreciate having each component, so that the whole Borough can thrive as it does,” Ms. Trotman said, in regard to making decisions about cutbacks. “These are very, very difficult times.”

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