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Planning Board to consider Princeton Shopping Center designation

Princeton Shopping Center, 301 N. Harrison St., Princeton

The Princeton Shopping Center’s potential designation as an area in need of redevelopment, along with adjacent properties on Clearview Avenue and Terhune Road, will be discussed by the Princeton Planning Board at its April 22 meeting.

The 7:30 p.m. virtual meeting will focus on a report, prepared by planning consultant Carlos Rodrigues, to determine whether those properties should be declared an area in need of redevelopment. The area is known informally as the North Harrison Study Area.

The properties include the Princeton Shopping Center at 301 N. Harrison St.; the former Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad headquarters on the corner of N. Harrison Street and Clearview Avenue; 8 Clearview Ave. and 14 Clearview Ave., which are owned by the Municipality of Princeton; and 351 Terhune Road, which is a vacant parcel on the corner of North Harrison Street and Terhune Road.

Design Solutions for a Crowded Planet LLC, which is Rodrigues’ firm, was awarded a $12,000 contract to conduct the study. The process was set in motion when the Princeton Council approved a resolution in December 2020 to ask the Planning Board to study the area.

“The primary interest in considering redevelopment designation is to give the property owners and the community maximum flexibility to achieve a creative, attractive and functional design for the study area,” Princeton Planning Director Michael LaPlace wrote in a March 24 memorandum to the Princeton Planning Board.

The area of study also includes components of the court-mandated Princeton Affordable Housing Fair Share Plan, LaPlace wrote. Two of the town’s largest proposed affordable housing sites are included within the North Harrison Study Area.

One of the affordable housing sites is in the parking lot on the south side of the shopping center, near Walgreens. The second site is the undeveloped land at 351 Terhune Road, on the north side of the Princeton Shopping Center. It is on the corner of N. Harrison Street and Terhune Road.

There is no need to consider condemnation of the properties because the property owners, including the Municipality of Princeton, are in agreement about the redevelopment area planning process, LaPlace said.

The Princeton Shopping Center is at the heart of the study area. The shopping center, which includes some office and professional services, was developed in 1954 and is functionally and economically obsolete, he said. The shopping center has a vacancy rate of nearly 20%.

The Princeton Shopping Center is anchored by McCaffrey’s Supermarket at the north end and by the Walgreens drug store at the south end. Of the approximately 50 storefronts, more than a half-dozen are vacant.

Several stores and businesses have closed or vacated in the past few months, including the New York Sports Club, Bon Appetit and the One-Of-A-Kind consignment shop.

State law provides for a locally designated area to be determined to be an area in need of redevelopment if it meets any of the conditions listed in the redevelopment law, LaPlace wrote in the March 24 memorandum.

“In fact, Mr. Rodrigues in his report has concluded that the proposed North Harrison Study Area meets many of the conditions for an area in need of redevelopment,” LaPlace wrote.

Those conditions include the general obsolescence of the structures and the prevailing stagnant condition of the area sites in terms of productivity and viability.

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