May 4, 2016

Late Summer Opening Targeted for Avalon Princeton

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CHANGING THE STREETSCAPE: The Avalon Princeton rental community is taking shape along Witherspoon Street, where Princeton’s hospital once stood. The 280-unit complex of apartments and townhouses, the subject of considerable pushback from area residents over the past few years, is planning to welcome its first tenants by late August, with full completion projected for a few months later.

The first units in the AvalonBay rental complex being built on the former site of Princeton Hospital on Witherspoon Street are scheduled to be available in late August.

At a breakfast meeting of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce last Friday, Ron Ladell, senior vice president of AvalonBay Communities, said prices for the 224 market-priced units will likely range from just under $2,000 for a studio to the low $4,000’s for a three-bedroom townhouse. Another 56 apartments are set aside for affordable housing.

“When AvalonBay picks a community, they’re committed to that community,” Mr. Ladell told the audience, which included some local residents who have disputed several aspects of the project since its proposal nearly five years ago. He recalled that while the plan for the rental complex conformed with zoning regulations, the town’s Planning Board voted against it in 2012. That led the company to sue. “We settled it, revised the community, and went back and got a project approved,” he said, adding it was unfortunate that tax dollars were spent to fight the project. A revised proposal was approved in 2013.

AvalonBay Communities has 285 developments in various American markets where it is difficult to get approvals. “We like that because there’s no competition,” Mr. Ladell said. The company currently has $3.7 billion in projects under construction, he said.

Avalon Princeton will have 23 studios, 100 one-bedroom apartments, 129 two-bedroom units, 28 3-bedroom apartments, and 12 two-bedroom and three-bedroom townhouses with attached garages. The townhouses will be located on Franklin Avenue. The pool on-site will open Memorial Day 2017, but other amenities will be available earlier.

Asked where he expects future tenants to come from, Mr. Ladell said, “Far and wide.” He anticipates a mix of young and middle-aged people who are opting to become home-renters rather than home-owners. “Just about everybody who lives in an AvalonBay community can afford to buy but they choose to rent,” he said.

Asked by architect Joshua Zinder how a disastrous fire in January 2015 at AvalonBay’s Edgewater complex has affected construction of the Princeton project, Mr. Ladell said that though not required by law, the company is building masonry firewalls and a fire suppression system, not only in Princeton but in all of the communities currently under construction.

Avalon Princeton will have its own leasing office, located at first in the basement of an existing office building on the site and moving in November or December to Building One. There may be some short-term rentals and furnished apartments available, “if there is a demand,” Mr. Ladell said. Building Two will be the first to open in late summer, followed 60 to 90 days later by Building One. Both are mid-rise four story structures.