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Princeton Planning Board approves affordable senior housing development

The Princeton Planning Board has approved an 80-unit age-restricted affordable housing apartment building off Thanet Circle proposed by PIRHL LIHTC Urban Renewal, rounding out the redevelopment of a former office park.

Princeton Planning Director Michael LaPlace outlined the application before the Planning Board at its Nov. 17 meeting. He said it is a companion development to AvalonBay Communities’ Avalon Princeton Thanet Circle development, which itself was approved at the Planning Board’s Nov. 5 meeting.

The AvalonBay Communities development, which is a 221-unit rental apartment and townhouse development, includes 11 affordable apartments. Combined, the AvalonBay Communities and PIRHL developments will create 91 affordable rental apartments for very low-, low- and moderate-income households.

In Mercer County, the maximum income for a one-person household to qualify for a moderate-income apartment is $61,175, and for a two-person household is $69,915.

A one-person household can earn up to $38,235 to qualify for a low-income apartment, and up to $43,697 for a two-person household.

The maximum income for a one-person household to qualify for a very low income apartment is $22,941, and for a two-person household is $26,218.

The two developments are part of the settlement agreement reached by the Municipality of Princeton and the Fair Share Housing Center, which sued Princeton – and many other New Jersey towns – over their alleged failure to provide their fair share of affordable housing.

The PIRHL application proposed a four-story apartment building on a two-acre lot, subdivided from the overall 15-acre parcel that is being redeveloped by AvalonBay Communities. It is part of the overall redevelopment for the office park, which has been vacant for several years.

Project engineer Jay Kruse said the apartment building will contain a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments. There will be two outdoor areas with seating, where residents can gather. A community garden also is planned for the residents’ use.

The parking lot is proposed to have 80 parking spaces – one for each apartment, Kruse said. But since it is likely that some residents will not have cars, some of the parking spaces could be “banked” – not built, but available to be built if there is demand, he said.

While the plan did not include provisions for electric vehicle charging stations, PIRHL agreed to provide two electric vehicle charging stations at the Planning Board’s request.

Attorney Richard Hoff, who represented PIRHL, said that while his client would provide the two electric vehicle charging stations, “we are not optimistic” that there will be a demand for them. The development is earmarked for affordable housing for senior citizens.

Princeton Councilman David Cohen, who sits on the Planning Board, countered that “the reality is that used (second-hand) electric vehicles are extremely affordable. We are not talking about Teslas. I think you might get some demand for it.”

But the residents would have to pay for the electricity to charge the cars, and it is a matter of what the residents can afford for charging the cars, said Laura Schwager, senior vice president of development for PIRHL.

Architect Jaquelin Camp provide more details about the design of the apartment building. She said there would be 73 two-bedroom apartments and seven one-bedroom apartments. Each apartment would have a small balcony.

On the ground floor, the building will have a social services office and an exam room for possible medical clinic days, Camp said. The community room will have a kitchenette, tables and a lounge seating area.

The building also includes an indoor bicycle storage area.

Amenities on the upper floors include a fitness center, a game room and another small community room. Each floor will have its own laundry room. There will be sprinklers to extinguish small fires that may break out.

The building is being constructed to be energy efficient, and it will be solar ready, Camp said. PIRHL will decide whether it makes sense to install solar panels on the roof, but the building will be ready to accept them if they are to be installed, she said.

The Planning Board members were receptive to the application, and voted unanimously to approve it.

Casting his vote to approve the application, Planning Board member Tim Quinn said, “I think this is a very exciting project. It is well done.”


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