July 17, 2019

AvalonBay Purchases Thanet Property; Affordable Housing Options Considered

By Donald Gilpin

AvalonBayCommunities, Inc., a real estate investment trust (REIT) that already owns 280 apartment units on Witherspoon Street, has recently signed a contract to purchase for an undisclosed amount the 15-acre Thanet property at 100 and 101 Thanet Circle off Terhune Road from the KABR Group, a real estate developer based in Ridgefield Park.

Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert announced at last week’s Council meeting that the town has been in discussions with AvalonBay over “a number of options for including affordable housing as part of any future development there.”

Lempert could not disclose further details about the Thanet sale, but she did comment briefly on the the town’s ongoing work in revising its affordable housing proposal. She noted that they are close to a final plan, but “we have not yet reached a final settlement and, therefore, we are precluded from sharing details of those discussions or our proposed plan at this time.”

She did mention that one addition to the plan is the former SAVE site at 900 Herrontown  Road, which will produce 64 affordable homes in a 100 percent affordable development.

“We want to be as open as possible as our plans develop, without compromising any of our fiduciary and legal responsibilities,” she said. “The plan has taken longer to get approved than anyone expected. We think we are finally closing in on a final plan. We will do our best to keep the public informed.”

AvalonBay, an S&P 500 company headquartered in northern Virginia and the ninth largest publicly traded REIT, owns and operates 291 communities containing more than 85,000 apartments, primarily in New England, the New York/New Jersey metro area, the Mid-Atlantic, the Pacific Northwest, and California.

AvalonBay did not respond to inquiries about their plans for the Thanet property, but the 110,000 square feet of office space in the two buildings will presumably be redeveloped into apartments. The 280 AvalonBay apartments on Witherspoon Street, located on the former Princeton Hospital site, include 56 affordable housing units.

A year ago acquisition of the Thanet property was part of the Princeton Public Schools’ referendum plan for housing central administration, maintenance, and transportation offices, as well as providing space for bus parking, athletic fields, and possibly a future preschool. The Thanet plan was dropped when the approximately $130M referendum bond proposal met with taxpayer resistance and was reduced to a $27M proposal that eventually passed last December