THE TOP STORIES OF 2015: AvalonBay starts new development on the site of former hospital

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
AvalonBay began in 2015 building its 280-unit residential development at the site of the former University Medical Center on Witherspoon Street in Princeton.
The developer finished clearing the old hospital site and set out to construct one of the largest redevelopment projects in town. The company anticipates the first set of units to be ready by the end of next summer, but the entire project will not be complete until 2017.
Yet it was something that happened earlier in the year in Bergen County, at a different AvalonBay development, that caught the attention of local officials.
A fire devastated a complex, in January in Edgewater, leaving scores of people homeless.
“Like everyone else, I was surprised the building could go up that quickly,” Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said. She expressed “concern” about having a building of that type of wood frame construction, “vulnerable to quick fires, in the center of a dense neighborhood.”
The fire led Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes to contact the Christie administration to ensure that the AvalonBay project in Princeton is up to all state construction codes and be as “flame retardant” as possible.
“All I want is a safe Princeton,” he would say.
In February, Mr. Hughes joined Mayor Liz Lempert and others in pressing for reforms to the way large residential buildings are constructed.
“We all want to make sure that the devastating inferno that burned down the apartment in Edgewater does not happen again,” she said. “We can’t stand by and let another tragedy happen.”
Later that month, AvalonBay announced that at its Princeton project and a project in Maplewood, Essex County, there would be more sprinklers and have masonry firewalls—going beyond what is required by the state.
“We remain highly enthusiastic about our long-term prospects in the Garden State,,” AvalonBay senior vice president Ronald S. Ladell said in a company news release.
“By continuing to work with local governmental and community leaders throughout New Jersey, we will continue to build distinctive, welcoming and safe communities.”
The project is well under way and the company expects the first units to be complete in the summer of 2016. 

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