The Regional Planning Board is once again geared to review, and possibly adopt, changes to the Princeton Community Master Plan that, if implemented, could lead the way to future zoning at the site currently occupied by the University Medical Center Princeton.
After repeatedly delaying votes on the plan, with a referral to subcommittee at its December 8 hearing when several Board members called the proposed Master Plan changes "flawed and incomplete," the Board will again examine proposals when it convenes tomorrow, January 19, at Township Hall at 7:30 p.m.
Proposed Master Plan changes will ultimately dictate zoning for whatever type of development will finally land on the 12-acre Witherspoon Street site: most likely a mix of residential, commercial, and recreational space. The Board will weigh what is currently on the table for consideration, namely a future site-wide building capacity that approaches 500,000 square feet with up to 280 residential units at about 1,250 a piece, though that number could fall if an increased number of two-bedroom units are added to the mix.
And while that vision has been bobbing in and out of subcommittee, the Planning Board now seems on the verge of deciding what could not only shape the look of future development on the hospital site, but could also improve the likelihood that Princeton HealthCare System, the hospital's parent company, will receive an attractive price for the land. The sale will go toward building a $350 million state-of-the-art facility on an 160-acre tract near Plainsboro Road in Plainsboro.
In November the hospital announced that it had named Philadelphia-based developer Lubert-Adler as the contract purchaser of the hospital site, with Princeton University tabbed to purchase the nine acres that house the Merwick Care Center on Bayard Lane and a two-acre surface parking lot on Franklin Avenue.
At its last meeting on December 21, the Planning Board's Master Plan Subcomittee seemed to reach consensus on how much density should be allowed for future development on the hospital site, an issue that was the source of a major rift between some Board members and members of the community.
However, at tomorrow's hearing, Princeton Future, a community-based group that examines in-town development, is expected to make a presentation that calls for through streets to be considered when rebuilding the site when the hospital leaves. The hospital has set a 2010 joint target opening date for its new facility and closing date for its current one.
Princeton Future has promoted the idea of either extending current streets like Leigh Avenue onto the site, or of simply building new streets that would effectively "absorb" the site into the surrounding neighborhoods.
Some Planning Board members, however, have gone along with the notion that higher density will more easily allow the municipalities to fulfill housing goals, most notably new affordable housing requirements as handed down by the state.
Members of Princeton Future have worried that one, solid development could shut out surrounding neighborhoods, members of Princeton Future encouraged throughways like Bank, Green, John, and Pine streets as possible models for new development.
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