Sound Downtown Development Honored As Group Recognizes Smart Growth
Princeton has long been identified for its smart population, but for enlightened development?
Last week, New Jersey Future, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and advocacy organization, honored Princeton Borough, Princeton Future, Princeton University, Nassau HKT Associates, and the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce with its annual Smart Growth Award for their part in taking what was ostensibly an asphalt jungle and turning it into a project that has resulted in the new Princeton Public Library, Witherspoon House, a public plaza, and a municipal garage. Once the entire project is completed, the list will also include a five-story building on the Tulane Street surface lot that will include not only apartments, but a grocery store on the first level.
The award ceremony, which took place May 4 at the Newark Club in Newark's downtown district, itself an area under development, honored seven towns, developers, and agencies for their "creativity and innovation" in development. Other projects recognized included plans to redevelop the former Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne into an area with shopping, housing, and parks, and Cranford Crossing, Cranford's first major development project in nearly a century.
But in Princeton, where development came at a cost involving lawsuits and appeals, the achievement ultimately represented a community effort. Through countless meetings and furrowed brows, the effortunited people with otherwise differing agendas, at least according to Susan Hockaday Jones, member of Princeton Future.
"It brought people together, who didn't initially have interests in common, in a way that helped them discover what they had in common that resulted in the best solution," she said.
"By listening to people and trying to understand what people are saying, it translated into a public space with a food market with pathways and walkways," said Sheldon Sturges, Princeton Future co-chair.
George Hawkins, executive director of New Jersey Future, which has no affiliation with Princeton Future, echoed those sentiments, saying that "wonderful collaboration" between the principal players in the development project was a main key to getting the project accomplished. "It's civic effort between every party and player," he said.
Receiving the award were Borough Mayor Joe O'Neill, former Borough Mayor Marvin Reed, Princeton Future co-chair Robert Geddes, Chamber President and CEO Kristin Appelget, University Director of Community and State Affairs Pam Hersh, and Nassau HKT Principal Robert Powell.
Yina Moore, member of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton and architect for Princeton Future, echoed the notion that the award, while honoring the major parties in the development project, reflects a community dialogue that underscored the entire process.
"Our greatest reward is that peoples' voices are expressed through policy and actions," she said.