Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 19
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
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Harriet Bryan House Joins Its Sister as the Ribbon Is Cut for Elm Court II

Matthew Hersh

More than a decade after a little piece of undesirable land in a remote corner of Princeton Borough near the Princeton Township border was identified as potentially developable for senior housing, residents of Elm Court II were welcomed to their new home Sunday. As the ribbon was cut, those involved with the project reminisced, and Princeton, for some, became a whole lot easier to live in.

While the 67-unit subsidized housing facility for low- and moderate-income seniors effectively serves as the sister building to Elm Court, Princeton Borough's 88-unit senior housing outfit built in 1985, the fact that the project was done at all represents a major victory for many of the principals involved.

The new 66,000-square-foot building, called the Harriet Bryan House, honoring the Elm Court II Committee chairperson and Princeton Community Housing trustee, carries a cost of nearly $10 million, when factoring in the price tags associated with land acquisition and construction. More than $7 million of that bill, however, was offset by a Federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which PCH received in January 2004. Mercer County contributed about $540,000 to the project and private monies were donated as well.

The overall 44 percent expansion will bring the total number of senior units at the site to 155, including a two-bedroom apartment for the Elm Court superintendent. PCH, a non-profit organization that manages over 460 affordable housing units in Princeton, also received a $1.3 million commitment, formally approved by HUD last month, for Project Rental Assistance. That portion of the grant will subsidize rents for low-income seniors who qualify under HUD's Section 202 Supportive Housing Program.

Applicants for the one-bedroom apartments at Harriet Bryan House must be age 62 or older with a gross income no more than $29,900 for one person and $34,150 for two people, according to the Princeton Community Housing Web site.

Up until recently, the Elm Court II project had suffered some significant setbacks, though it was still able to open by its target 2007 date. The aforementioned $1.3 million HUD grant had been delayed after Hurricane Katrina hit in September 2005, forcing PCH to delay the project. "It has been a long road," Ms. Bryan said at the facility's formal ground breaking that following December.

The final Elm Court II result is less than the once-proposed 77,000-square-foot plan — a result of a lawsuit pursued by the Mountain Brook Association, a group that comprises a number of residents in that area.

The project initiated zoning changes in that area, as well as revisions to the Princeton Community Master Plan, and while neighbors in the late 1990s contended that the land was protected under the state's Green Acres Open Space Program, PCH was able to acquire funding through the Mercer County HOME program to purchase the land.

Several legal obstacles, since resolved, led to the proposal's approval by the Regional Planning Board of Princeton in June 2004.

Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman delivered a proclamation Sunday, declaring May 6 as Harriet Bryan Day, in recognition of Ms. Bryan's work to increase affordable housing levels in Princeton.

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