February 26, 2020

Council Approves Thanet Development, Affordable Housing Plan Moves Forward

By Donald Gilpin

Princeton Council, at a special February 19 meeting, approved the Thanet Road Redevelopment Plan calling for the construction of a 221-unit multi-family development — including six affordable apartments and five additional affordable apartments for special needs adults — and a 100 percent senior affordable development with 80 units.

AvalonBay, the developer of the multi-family development, will pay a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) on the property equal to 11 percent of total rental income for 30 years, with the proceeds from these payments earmarked to offset the costs of constructing the affordable senior development.

The Council also approved a redevelopers agreement with AvalonBay and designated AvalonBay and developer and general contractor PIHRL as the redevelopers of the site.

“It’s a good deal for the municipality,” said Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, pointing out the high affordable housing requirement and short timeline with a deadline in 2025. “This is meeting a critical need.”

She went on to note, ”Princeton has a tradition of doing affordable housing well. There’s a tremendous amount of support for affordable housing in our community and an understanding of why it’s beneficial to the community at large.”

Pointing out advantages to the crowded schools, with much of the new housing designated for seniors, she added, “We were very mindful of school impact.”

She acknowledged, “There has legitimately been a lot of concern about how this is going to change the town, how the schools are going to be prepared for an influx of students, how the neighborhood will deal with increased traffic. There are concerns and costs no matter how you slice it, but I’m very proud of our plan. It has tremendous benefits.”

She said she had received emails from people concerned about the expense, the impact on the town, and the short time frame for planning. She has also had emails from people who  are eager to sign up to live in the senior housing.

The compliance phase of the process will include additional elements in the agreement with PIHRL to be considered at the March 9 Council meeting followed by a public hearing planned for June.

Lempert was eager to spread the word on the housing opportunities available for purchase and rental in the planned development, and Council will be holding workshops to provide further information. “The income limits for a two-bedroom moderate-income unit are higher than people may think,” she said.

Princeton’s plan for affordable housing was approved by the Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary
Jacobson on February 7, with the settlement agreement between the municipality and the Fair Share Housing Center ending litigation which dated back to 2015.

Judge Jacobson praised the redevelopment of the Thanet property as an innovative and realistic financing approach to constructing senior affordable housing, according to Lempert, who noted that Princeton’s existing developments were cited as model examples of how affordable and mixed-income communities could be built and operated successfully.