Palmer Square, the town center that has been developing ever since its 1929 groundbreaking, received the Regional Planning Board of Princeton's long-awaited approval Thursday to build on a vacant expanse along Paul Robeson Place.
The project's developer, Palmer Properties, LLC, now has the go-ahead to assemble 100 residential units in seven buildings over 4 acres of land. The complex will contain 80 multi-family units, 19 townhouses, and one flat.
The approval comes on the heels of a conflict with the Princeton Borough Engineering Department over parking requirements to mitigate the anticipated increase in cars for the development. Borough ordinance calls for 1,022 while the Palmer plan supplied only 1,008 spaces. However, that plan also calls for 18 tandem spaces, also known as stacked parking, that would put the developer above the required space count.
Despite the additional parking from the tandem arrangement, a parking variance was required. While the tandem parking does not increase the official space count under Borough ordinance, an advisory branch of the Planning Board urged the developer to proceed with that route to offset the parking needed.
The unanimous Planning Board approval did stipulate that Palmer Properties participate in a Planning Board subcommittee assembled to iron out parking management detail, a provision the developer initially balked at, but eventually seemed to accept.
"Parking is such an important issue," said Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman, also a Planning Board member. "It is important to resolve all parking issues now, because if there is a problem in the future, it could place a negative impact on the Central Business District and surrounding neighborhoods."
While this development itself had been in the making for roughly 25 years, including time taken to consider if the site, then known as Hulfish North, were appropriate for the Princeton Public Library, it did receive preliminary Planning Board approval in 1990. But that previously approved plan outlined only 97 units, and did not include affordable units, and under the former Borough ordinance that has since been revised, none were required.
The amended application includes three additional units, but requires Palmer Properties to designate 10 rental affordable housing units. However, those units are not required to be part of the new development and can be placed within Palmer Square's holdings, in the Palmer Square area.
The 16-year time gap between the initial 1990 approval and last Thursday's nod was largely due to an ongoing disagreement between Palmer Square and the Borough regarding the inclusion of affordable housing. An agreement was finally memorialized between the two parties in January 2004 stipulating that if three units were to be added to the plan, Palmer Square would have to return to the Planning Board and include the affordable units as part of the application.
The Planning Board was not involved in that agreement.
The Palmer plan can be traced back to 1981 when Palmer Square won approval for the expansion of the Nassau Inn, completed in 1985. Palmer Square representatives have targeted the spring of 2007 as a likely date to start construction.
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