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Ways to Take Advantage of Second Chance For Sustainable Development of Hospital Site

To the Editor:

Princeton has gained a second chance for a smart, sustainable development on the old hospital site, now that AvalonBay’s plan was rejected by the Planning Board. Our new Princeton Council can now work on a fresh ordinance to ensure that community goals are met by any developer, even if AvalonBay re-applies with a “substantially” different site plan.

What should a new ordinance include? The primary aim has always been to reintegrate the entire hospital block back into the physical scale of the neighborhood, making it suitable for ordinary human living, as opposed to the extraordinary functions of a hospital.

First, let’s exclude a swimming pool. Our new Community Park Pool is three blocks away.

Next, sustainable building is imperative. Energy conservation measures must be specified. “Obsolete” new construction — as Heidi Fichtenbaum told the Planning Board — must not be allowed, whether at the hospital site or throughout the entire municipality. As a simple matter of social justice Princeton Council should seek lower utility costs for low-income tenants. Princeton must move forward into the 21st century and continue to set an example.

Many speakers at the hearings, and others, have stressed a required minimum percentage (3-4 percent) for local retail shops (dry cleaners, laundromat, drugstore, etc.), and stores that invigorate the neighborhood economically, encourage people-flow, and keep tenants from wasting time and gas driving elsewhere for shopping.

The current megablock must be broken into livable building areas. New public streets or pedestrian/bicycle pathways should truly “cross the site” to connect with already existing streets such as Carnahan Place, Franklin, and Leigh Avenues.

The hospital promised Princeton and the neighborhood a sizeable park (35,000 square feey). The new ordinance should mandate a park as part of the minimum required public open space. Let’s hope for public open space for a neighborhood playground (architect Robert Hillier proposed two).

Density: “up to 280,” not 280 flat. Princeton Council should find incentives to lower a density that many people consider outrageously high, especially since Mr. Rabner on behalf of the hospital and its trustees contracted with a developer known by historical practice to do everything except build according to the Master Plan and Borough Code.

Our municipal leaders must incentivize more “very low income” units than the 13 percent of affordable units required by law. Princeton needs to mandate social justice for the sake of a thriving community.

Let’s remember that the ordinances resulting from the 2005 concept plan won two awards: 1) Sustainable Bronze accreditation from Sustainable Jersey, for permitting recycling of the hospital “towers” (not their destruction, which Pam Hersh, hospital spokesperson, called “a travesty” [Borough Council, July 11, 2006]); 2)The Delaware River Valley Smart Growth Award, 2006, for the ordinance provision, “A new neighborhood street is envisioned” — smaller blocks, human scale, more bikes and feet.

Janice Hall

Park Place

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