Maple Terrace purchase moves affordable housing redevelopment forward

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The Princeton Council will pay $1.7 million to buy a property on the corner of Witherspoon Street and Franklin Avenue to be redeveloped for affordable housing.

An ordinance authorizing the purchase of the property at 1-10 Franklin Ave., also known as Maple Terrace, was approved by the Princeton Council at its Feb. 27 meeting. The sale is expected to close within six months.

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Maple Terrace is owned by the Princeton Housing Authority. The municipality owns the adjacent Franklin Terrace development, which is managed by the housing authority, and the parking lot on Franklin Avenue.

The Maple Terrace, Franklin Terrace and municipal parking lot properties will be redeveloped to include affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households. Franklin Terrace and Maple Terrace, which were built in the 1930s and 1940s, will be demolished.

The planned redevelopment grew out of the town’s out-of-court settlement with the Fair Share Housing Center. The nonprofit group sued Princeton – and many other towns – for allegedly failing to provide its fair share of affordable housing.

The Princeton Council rezoned Maple Terrace, Franklin Terrace and the parking lot properties in July 2020 to pave the way for their redevelopment for affordable housing. It adopted two ordinances that set out how the land could be redeveloped.

One ordinance rezoned the Franklin Terrace and adjacent parking lot properties to allow for 80 housing units, all of which would be affordable housing. It would be a municipally-sponsored development, which means there would be no market-rate units.

The second ordinance created an “overlay” affordable housing zone to include the Maple Terrace, Franklin Terrace and parking lot properties. As many as 160 housing units could be built on the combined parcels.

Of those 160 units, half would be set aside for low- and moderate-income households and half would be market-rate units. Commercial uses would be permitted on the first floor of a new building facing Witherspoon Street.

Anticipating the redevelopment project, the Princeton Council appointed an eight-member Franklin Avenue Redevelopment Task Force in October 2020. Its recommendations were to be guidelines only.

The task force offered non-binding recommendations suggesting a series of three- and four-story apartment buildings could be built on the combined sites. A plaza could be built on the corner of Witherspoon Street and Franklin Avenue to draw the larger community into the development.

The four-story building could be set at the rear of the property. The three-story apartment buildings could be located on Franklin Avenue. The smaller buildings would screen the taller building in the rear, the task force suggested.

Parking could be in a parking garage set underneath the buildings. It was also suggested that Franklin Avenue could be widened to allow for parking on both sides of the street. Parking would be reserved for the residents of the apartment buildings.

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