May 1, 2016

Edens: Shopping Center Is “Princeton’s Second Downtown”

Edens, the company that has owned Princeton Shopping Center since 2012, is committed to “catering to the community,” the company’s vice president of development David Germakian told Princeton Council at a meeting of the governing body Monday night. Mr. Germakian said that Edens, which owns 120 retail centers along the east coast and in Texas, sees the shopping center as “Princeton’s second downtown.”

But some members of Council and the public expressed concern about the direction in which the 60-year-old shopping center on North Harrison Street is headed.

Mr. Germakian was at the meeting to give an update on ongoing construction and renovations at the shopping center, which he said should be completed by next September. Edens’ recent decision to not renew the lease of Jordan’s, a popular stationery and gift store that has been at the center for more than three decades, has touched a nerve among residents who count on the complex for basic services.

“What I think people fear is that you’re hoping for high-end stores instead of useful ones, like Jordan’s,” said Council member Jenny Crumiller. “Will you have any bargain-type stores?”

Local resident Anne Neumann, a candidate for a seat on Council, commented that most Princetonians don’t shop in the downtown, instead patronizing stores at the shopping center for hardware, groceries, laundry, and other services. “I hope you’ll take back to your management [these thoughts] about turning Princeton Shopping Center into too much of an upscale center,” she said. “We like it the way it is.”

“This is our local shopping center,” added resident Kip Cherry. “It’s not MarketFair. It’s not New York City. I’m just concerned that we may be missing the mark.”

Mr. Germakian responded, “We want to continue in the form [the shopping center] was conceived. Local is very much something we see as the vision for the shopping center, with some national retailers mixed in.”

Several storefronts at the shopping center are currently empty. But since taking over four years ago, Edens has renewed or extended almost half of the leases at the center, Mr. Germakian said. Asked by Councilwoman Heather Howard about Princeton laundromat, which is the only laundry facility in town, he said it has been renewed with a long term lease.

Nomad Pizza is targeted to open next month in the former gas station, Mr. Germakian said. Barring bad weather, the parking lot work along North Harrison Street should be completed in two weeks. The repaving and repairing of the parking lots, better circulation, new LED lighting, enhanced landscaping, and expanded walkways are among the planned improvements.

Councilman Bernie Miller asked about improved connectivity in Grover Park, at the rear of the center. Mr. Germakian said the two ends of the park will be joined by sidewalks and a pedestrian walkway will funnel into the middle of the complex. Councilman Lance Liverman observed that the shopping center is not just about stores. “It’s not just a bricks and mortar place. It’s a place to meet,” he said, referring to the family-oriented events such as concerts and film screenings that are held on the green. Mr. Germakian assured him that those events will continue.

Making a brief, emotional statement to Council before Mr. Germakian gave his presentation, Jordan’s longtime owner Lewis Wildman said, “It has been an honor to have been here for 34 years. I hope the shopping center stays community-oriented, somehow.”

Mr. Wildman got a round of applause, and Mayor Lempert said, “Jordan’s is a favorite of everybody.”