Palmer Square Rounds Up Shops, Consumers in Downtown Princeton
Think of an independently operated mall in the heart of Princeton, and you will only get to the tip of the role Palmer Square plays in downtown Princeton.
Think of an entity that serves as a point of attraction for visitors, an upscale, outdoor shopping facility that pulls in $500 per square foot per year, and one of many identifying aesthetic characteristics Princeton has to offer, and you're getting warmer.
But think of it as a crucial and instrumental player in the current period of transition in Princeton, and you have hit the nail on the head.
"The next four to five years will be defining in how [Princeton] serves the needs of the community as well as continuing to attract businesses near and far," said David Newton, president of Palmer Square Management, LLC. He said that recent vacancies have been filled and that stores continue to turnover, reflecting the economy, and the changing demands of a kinetic downtown Princeton.
"Despite weathering adversity like economy and construction, the town has not only survived, but has absolutely come out stronger than ever," Mr. Newton said.
As the vice president of the Borough Merchants, Mr. Newton is aware of the impact that vacancies in Palmer Square have on the economy of the town, however, not only is Palmer Square typically able to fill them expeditiously, but these vacancies are viewed as "opportunities" to build and improve Palmer Square and downtown Princeton in general, he said.
Mr. Newton cited the poor economy as a major factor in stores closing. However, he noted that the rate at which this occurred was down. Palmer Square turnover has decreased to 25 percent compared with 40 percent in 2002.
Mr. Newton also said that in the past 18 months, successful stores have taken residence in the Square, including J. Crew, Smith Bros., Mimi Maternity, Ici Fashion for Children, and Blue Mercury. He said the recent closure of Jaeger was due to the chain closing all its stores nationwide. In light of Princeton Future's "Buy Local Month" in October, Mr. Newton said he regularly fields questions about the impact of competing shopping behemoths along the Route 1 corridor, such as Nassau Park, Market Fair, and Quakerbridge Mall, to name a few.
"I see Palmer Square as being different," he said, noting that while there are isolated instances of stores opening up in the malls that resemble a commercial enterprise in the Square, the "upscale" value of the stores in Princeton are what make the defining difference. "The more upscale we go, the more we seem to be rewarded," he said.
As a key element in current and future construction downtown, Mr. Newton says that he would like to see the community "built-out" and that Palmer Square can supply the catalyst for that endeavor.
"Hulfish North is the final component" Mr. Newton said, and once that is completed, "Princeton will be truly, truly humming."
The reference to Hulfish North alludes to an ongoing battle that has endured for several years regarding the use of the space between the Palmer Square parking garage and Paul Robeson Place. The space is currently unused.
The battle between Palmer Square and Princeton Borough regarding the percentage of affordable housing available for the approved 97 townhouses slated to be built on Hulfish North has caused consternation between the two entities, but Mr. Newton insists that the rift is not as vast as it sometimes appears.
To keep with the holiday tradition, Palmer Square will participate in its annual celebration with various events and attractions. Mr. Newton noted that the upcoming holiday season is an opportunity to further attract both local and out of town guests to Palmer Square. Special events through the holidays include the annual tree lighting and menorah lighting and extended holiday hours between December 15 and 23.