The first Princeton University construction project to emerge since Princeton Borough adopted state mandated affordable housing regulations last year will likely result in the reconstruction of five affordable rental units along a stretch of Leigh Avenue.
The University project, a 45,000 square-foot academic building slated to house the Operations Research and Financial Engineering Department (ORFE) to be located at the school's Engineering Quadrangle east of Olden Street, has been submitted to the Regional Planning Board of Princeton for review and will be subjected to the current growth share law.
Those statutes, as dictated through the state's Council on Affordable Housing, (COAH), outline several mechanisms to induce an increased level of affordable housing through development that would include affordable units commensurate with the new development's square-footage and the number of jobs it will produce.
"It's a great opportunity for us to work hand-in-hand with the University on the first project since the regulations were put into place," said Robert Bruschi, Borough administrator.
The University will also be required, under municipal ordinance, to pay $186,975 to the Borough for a portion of the growth share generated.
An aging affordable rental complex located at 101-104 Leigh Avenue that currently contains five housing units will be demolished and reconstructed by the University. By the state's standards, the new units must be habitable before ORFE receives a certificate of occupancy. The University has indicated that the new ORFE building will be complete in time for the 2008-2009 academic year.
Once the five units are demolished and reconstruction is underway, the Borough is credited a refreshed five units. The state is requiring the Borough to produce 97 affordable units retroactive through 2014; the land-starved Borough, however, has questioned the feasibility of that number.
Under the current guidelines, projected development by the University alone would call for 38 housing units. However, that number could also change if COAH reconsiders requirements for tax-exempt institutions and for development that does not necessarily fall into COAH's job growth formula.
Regardless, the fact that any affordable units are stemming from this development is a triumph for both the University and municipality, as the Borough labored for months as to how to apply blanket regulations to the local landscape.
Mr. Bruschi said reconstructing the dilapidated units was more of a concern for the Borough than the University simply making cash payments to be held in escrow in lieu of affordable housing, which is also allowable under COAH's mandates. "We don't really want the money, we want the units, and this immediately turns around the units, which is good for us, good for the University, and great for the people that need the units," he said.
"I don't like using that 'win-win' phrase, but everybody does come out ahead on this one," he added.
Borough Council was expected to vote on a resolution that would give the nod to move forward with an arrangement that correlates new units to the University's ORFE project Tuesday night, after Town Topics press time.
In other news, Council was to be briefed with revenue projections following a second-quarter financial report Tuesday. Mr. Bruschi, in a memorandum issued to Council members and Mayor Mildred Trotman, pointed to a slower-than-usual construction season that has curbed construction fees. However, he went on to say that future projects, including the University's ORFE project, as well as the 100 residences planned for a vacant Palmer Square expanse along Paul Robeson Place could make up for lost revenue.
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