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Princeton Future Discusses Hospital, Affordable Housing in Public Forum

Matthew Hersh

Notwithstanding bitter cold temperatures and crucial NFL playoff games, Princeton Future, a community group whose sights are focused on development in Princeton neighborhoods, met at the Township Municipal Complex Sunday evening to weigh issues like the possible relocation of the Princeton HealthCare System and affordable housing.

Referring to a recent agreement to build luxury apartments in Palmer Square, Affordable Housing Board member Pierna Thayer said she was concerned that the personal interests of some groups may overshadow the will of the community as a whole.

"I think sometimes changes enhance and promote the interest of some groups, and other times it undermines the interests of other groups," she said. "If anything does happen in our community, it [should happen] on behalf of community members and in the interests of those members."

No further comment was made at the meeting regarding the Palmer Square agreement.

But Princeton Future co-Chair Sheldon Sturges has expressed concern in the past with current plans to "scatter" the affordable units that Palmer Square has committed to build throughout the development rather than locate them alongside the luxury ones.

"We would not want to see the [affordable housing] units over Etc. Company," he said.

Princeton Future has expressed concern also about the barrier-effect that structures built along Paul Robeson Place may pose on the John-Witherspoon neighborhood. One of the group's goals is to change traffic patterns along the "Paul Robeson Speedway" so that the area is more pedestrian-friendly for residents crossing Paul Robeson Place into downtown Princeton.

Question of Health Care

The hospital also struck a tone with those in attendance at the two-hour meeting.

Princeton architect and Lytle Street resident Kevin Wilkes said the hospital's relocation out of town would be "devastating" to Princeton, and proposed that it be moved to the site of the Stanworth apartments off Route 206 and move that housing to the hospital's current location.

Mr. Wilkes said a reason for relocating the hospital to Route 206 would be accessibility for emergency vehicles and other traffic.

However, John-Witherspoon residents in attendance suggested that a new complex shouldn't be built without taking into consideration the potential impact that such a high-tech facility would have on the surrounding neighborhood. The neighborhood was not built to support such infrastructure, they said.

Unlike past meetings, the hospital was not represented in this particular forum. However, those in the audience agreed that the hospital has made attempts to receive as much community feedback as possible.

This did not phase former Township Mayor James Floyd, who lauded PCHS President Barry Rabner as the "most refreshing thing that has happened to the hospital in 80 years." Princeton Future began its initiative three years ago in response to a changing downtown. Its founders believe the Borough needed a strategy of development through obtaining input directly from neighborhoods impacted by downtown re-development.

In addition to approximately 40 residents, looking on were Borough Mayor Joe O'Neill, former Borough Mayor Marvin Reed, former Township Mayor James Floyd, Township Committeeman Bernie Miller, Borough Councilwoman Wendy Benchley, and Princeton Regional Planning Board members Gail Ullman and Wanda Gunning.

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