A change in the Princeton Community Master Plan could eventually pave the way toward redeveloping some 30 acres of fertile land along Princeton Borough's Bayard Lane and Paul Robeson Place and it's all happening with surprisingly little notice from the community.
A subsidiary of Princeton HealthCare System, whose future locale is likely to be in Plainsboro along with the University Medical Center at Princeton, the Merwick Care Center sits on a property that promises much for Borough planners and government. But the muted response from surrounding communities, however, has so far been in sharp contrast to the often heated debate that has surrounded the redevelopment prospects of the 12-acre Medical Center site on Witherspoon Street.
Borough Council is currently entertaining possible zoning for the Witherspoon campus and an adjacent surface parking lot (see story on this page), that essentially envisions dense housing, with commercial and office areas.
But considering the nine-acre Merwick site, along with the 17 acres that make up Princeton University's Stanworth apartments, and the three lots over six acres that house the YM/YWCA properties, the future of this area seems far more uncertain.
Princeton University has a contract to purchase the Merwick site, and the YM/YWCA two separate entities have vowed to remain at that location and work with the hospital and University during planning negotiations.
Those negotiations moved forward Thursday when the Regional Planning Board of Princeton agreed to change a portion of the Master Plan proposing that future zoning in that area should dictate a combination of residential, commercial, and institutional, as well as large institutional, use.
The changes, however philosophical, do suggest the foundation for future zoning. The entire Merwick-Stanworth-YM/YWCA site is in the Borough, signaling another major challenge for the Planning Board and Borough Council in the coming months. The Merwick site in particular, a portion of which is wooded, represents some of the last undeveloped non-parkland in the Borough.
Representatives from the community group Princeton Future are also expected to present possible redevelopment paths. Earlier this year, the group, which has emerged as an influential force for in-town redevelopment, held a so-called charrette, where area architectural firms were invited to examine the entire area to suggest possibilities focusing more on the theoretical issue, rather than offering specific plans.
The charrette produced an array of designs concerning use, traffic circulation, and bicycle and pedestrian mobility. Princeton Future has regrouped by electing new members to its steering committee to focus on this and other redevelopment projects facing the area (see story on page 3).
And while the Planning Board did not suggest specific designs, it did devise new parameters for future development from a series of subcommittee meetings held this year. Elements outlined in the changes include encouraging 20 percent of any new housing to qualify as affordable, building a variety of housing types, promoting pedestrian and bicycle connections, and designing through streets that would discourage short cuts from, for example, Bayard Lane to Paul Robeson Place.
The Planning Board also agreed that a portion of Merwick's current wooded area should remain, and that any new development should not intrude on the Y playing field along Paul Robeson and should provide public access to any open space created as the result of redevelopment.
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