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Planning Board to hold special meeting on Princeton Shopping Center plan

LEA KAHN/STAFF

The Princeton Planning Board will hold a special meeting Oct. 26 to wrap up the public hearing on Princeton (Edens) LLC’s application to build a 200-unit rental apartment building at the Princeton Shopping Center on North Harrison Street.

The Planning Board, which began the public hearing on the application last month, listened to five hours of additional testimony at its Oct. 14 meeting, but did not take action. The apartment building is proposed for the parking lot opposite the Walgreens pharmacy.

Several outstanding issues raised at the Oct. 14 meeting remain to be addressed – from bicycle and pedestrian paths, to the number and placement of bicycle racks and the traffic impact of the new apartment building.

The application calls for subdividing the property to develop a four-story rental apartment building. Of the 200 apartments, 160 units would be market-rate units and 40 would be earmarked for low- and moderate-income households.

Part of the Princeton Shopping Center building that houses Walgreens pharmacy, the Verizon store and other businesses would be demolished. Walgreens would move into a new 10,1890-square-foot building next to the first entrance into the Princeton Shopping Center on North Harrison Street.

Architect Pawel Honc told the Planning Board at the Oct. 14 meeting that the new Walgreens pharmacy would be more compact than the 16,447-square-foot store. It would include a drive-thru window for customers to pick up prescriptions.

The facade would be white stucco or white brick, with wood accents. There is space for murals to be painted on the walls, in cooperation with the Arts Council of Princeton, Honc said.

Landscape architect Adam Alexander outlined the proposed landscaping plan for the project. Shrubs and plants would be installed along North Harrison Street, around the Walgreens building and the apartment building, and the parking lots.

Additional trees would be planted along the southern boundary line, between the shopping center parking lot and driveway and the adjacent houses on Clearview Avenue. The rear yards of those houses abut the Princeton Shopping Center.

Traffic engineer Nancy Dolan, who represents the applicant, shared the results of an updated traffic analysis was performed last month. The study examined traffic movements into and out of the shopping center at the four driveways on a weekday and on a Saturday.

During the morning peak rush hour of 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., the apartment building was projected to generate a net increase of 70 trips entering and leaving the site, and a net increase of 32 trips in the evening peak rush hour of 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., Dolan said.

During the Saturday midday peak hour from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., the traffic study projected a net increase of 52 trios.

Dolan said the goal of a mixed-use development is to keep traffic on the site. It is expected that the residents of the apartment building would patronize the businesses at the Princeton Shopping Center, so there would be less need for them to leave the site, she said.

When the meeting was opened for public comment, several residents raised issues about landscaping along the boundary between their homes and the Princeton Shopping Center. They also raised concerns about the height of the building.

Martha d’Avila said there would be a loss of some greenery along the boundary, and expressed hope that it would be replaced. The new four-story apartment building also will cast shade on the residents’ backyards in the afternoon, she said.

“A new development should relate to the existing neighborhood. What this one is doing is taking away our privacy, taking away our solar access and taking away the character of the neighborhood,” d’Avila said.

Pam Kent said the Princeton Shopping Center is an asset and she understands that Princeton is “under the gun” to create more housing to meet its required amount of housing for low- and moderate-income households. The new development should be “the best that it can be,” she said.

After listening to public comment and noting that it was late in the evening, the Planning Board debated whether it wanted to take action.

Planning Board member Tim Quinn said the traffic study is a “huge issue.” The applicant’s traffic engineer prepared a 93-page report, which was presented to the town’s professional staff three days before the Oct. 14 meeting.

“I am just not comfortable voting for that reason,” Quinn said.

James Purcell, the town’s land use engineer, and Heather Balgowan, the Planning Board’s traffic consultant, said they had not had enough time to review the Oct. 8 traffic impact statement submitted by Princeton (Edens) LLC’s traffic engineer.

“It’s just a lot to digest for us professionals,” Purcell said.

To provide Purcell and Balgowan with enough time to review and respond to the reports and the additional testimony presented at the meeting, the Planning Board and Princeton (Edens) LLC agreed to hold a special meeting Oct. 26 to wrap up the public hearing.

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