December 2, 2020

Merchants Support a Two-Way Witherspoon Street Design That Works for All Visitors

To the Editor:

We write as Princeton business owners and residents, concerned for the future of our fellow merchants and our town. As town Council is currently undertaking efforts to redesign Witherspoon Street at a time that will make or break many of our beloved Princeton businesses, we feel it is important to express our views regarding these redesign efforts.

We all agree: Witherspoon Street needs beautification and improvement. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Witherspoon Street is central to fostering a successful business district. As individuals who have operated stores and restaurants in Princeton for years and experience the realities of the current one-way setup daily, we understand that it is critically important to incorporate the following factors into any redesign of Witherspoon Street:

Avoid decreasing the number of parking spaces. Princeton has a “parking problem,” perceived and real. We can’t afford to exacerbate this issue. We serve clientele who live walking-distance to our shops and many more who don’t, both from Princeton proper and well beyond. Convenient parking is critical to keep customers visiting Princeton’s downtown.

Improve the street’s challenging ingress and egress. Witherspoon Street serves all types of visitors: walkers, drivers, bicyclists, people looking for a quick stop, people looking for a longer stay, and people looking to pass through. We must provide convenience for all visitors, not only those privileged enough to use Witherspoon solely as a pedestrian walkway. Witherspoon is one of three main north/south arteries downtown. Decreasing traffic flow there will congest traffic unpredictably, making an already difficult-to-navigate town more so.

Allow for wide traffic lanes. Deliveries occur all day on Witherspoon. Loading zones are required for businesses to accept deliveries and prepare their own outgoing deliveries. Vehicles performing deliveries, grease trap cleaning, and garbage pickup need space to avoid blocking other cars and pedestrian sightlines.

We object to any plan that cannot accommodate these needs, including any plan to close or limit access to Witherspoon Street. As merchants, we strongly support an option that beautifies the street, provides public art space, allows for greater pedestrian safety at designated crossing areas, maintains parking availability, and utilizes two-way vehicular lanes to keep traffic moving and retain the space necessary for commerce to happen.

We dedicate our lives to serving the Princeton community and wouldn’t be where we are without adapting to everyone’s needs. Please hear us when we say that a limited-access Witherspoon Street will drive away businesses like ours and jeopardize the future of the town; our local businesses rely on customers who visit from Princeton and beyond and we need a well-conceived plan that accommodates those customers and fosters a robust business community.

Agricola, Hamilton Jewelers, J. McLaughlin, Jules Thin Crust, Labyrinth Books, Mamoun’s Falafel, Olives, Public Wine Beer and Spirits, Small World Coffee, and Witherspoon Grill/Kristine’s support this letter as merchants, residents, taxpayers, and dreamers who believe in Princeton’s infinite potential, and we hope you hear us so that we may continue to serve Princeton. Please tell town Council that Witherspoon Street must continue to remain open to all.

Andrew Siegel
Fourth-Generation Owner, Hamilton Jewelers
Writing on behalf of merchants listed above.