Residential construction has returned to downtown Princeton in a big way. In tony Palmer Square, home to small boutiques and high-end retail shops, 100 dwelling units are under construction. The Residences at Palmer Square will be an upscale townhouse and condominium community on Paul Robeson Place and Chambers and Witherspoon streets. When it is finished — somewhere in mid-2011, according to Jay Goldberg, lead sales agent for the property — there will be 17 townhouses and 83 condominiums.

Most of the site is under construction, though parts of it are nearly done, Goldberg says. Twenty-seven of the condos and the first 11 townhouses are being worked on in earnest and the first townhouse, on Chambers Street, should be ready for occupancy in September. More are due to come online before winter. “It’s kind of an ice-breaker,” he says of the first house. Something that will show the world progress is being made and provide a live example of what potential buyers can expect.

The first thing they can expect are Princeton prices. The condos, all two-bedroom and ranging from 1,650 to 3,200 square feet, are priced from “just over $1.2 million to just under $2.5 million” Goldberg says. “They are in the $600 to $700-per-square-foot-range.”

The townhouses, ranging from 2,500 to 4,500 square feet, will be four-floor homes containing their own elevators. These footprints are living space numbers, Goldberg says — they do not reflect the unfinished basements or the elevators. The townhouses range in price from $1.8 million to $2.2 million and are three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath dwellings.

Goldberg acknowledges that some condos and townhouses are roughly the same size, but with a price differential of a few hundred thousand dollars. But whereas the condos are primarily geared toward couples, the townhouses are built with larger families and guests in mind. The smallest of the condos is still fairly roomy. Modern condos often hover around 1,000 square feet. The largest are two-floor condos. There will be eight condo buildings, Goldberg says.

Goldberg also acknowledges the recession. Asking rents for the residences, he says, are about 10 percent less than what was originally planned.

The real estate market is indeed soft, particularly in sales. Martha Stockton, owner of Stockton Real Estate at 32 Chambers Street, says there were 219 homes for sale in Princeton at the beginning of August, when normally there are only about 125. By August 24, the number of homes for sale dropped to 185, but Stockton suspects the properties have not sold, they’ve just been converted to rentals.

“The market is just so top-heavy,” Stockton says. “Of those 219 houses, 117 were selling for more than $1 million. Nothing is less than $400,000.”

The Residences, however, seem to be in line with the cost of higher-end living, considering the amenities available. Buildings 1 and 2 sit atop the parking garage on Hulfish Street and come with an elevator that will take residents to their home floors. There is a second elevator in another building, and those buildings not directly over the garage are adjacent to it, Goldberg says. The elevators will be shared, but the buildings are designed to partition some of the common areas so that residents can have a little more privacy. “You don’t have to walk down a long hall to get to your home,” he says.

Outside is a common area, with landscaping and a promenade that will serve as “kind of their backyard,” Goldberg says. Princeton Borough wanted the developer (Palmer Square Management Co., which manages Palmer Square’s retail and hospitality businesses) to create some public space to allow walk-around traffic.

The site itself has been wading through official channels since 1983, when the Hulfish North project was introduced. That project wallowed in concerns over parking and affordable housing requirements for another seven years. In 1990 the borough OK’d the site for development, only to stay in debates, arguments, and negotiations for another 13 years. With a deal finally reached, Palmer Square Management and architecture firm Minno & Wasko of Lambertville began designing the actual residences about three years ago, Goldberg says.

The 100 units, he says, are designed with aging-in-place in mind, hence the elevators. And while the buildings themselves are not specifically “green” in design or construction, Goldberg says they have been developed to be as efficient as possible. Residents will be able to control climate on separate floors and the buildings are constructed (by MOD Construction of Newark) out of concrete and steel with an extra-thick layer of drywall to reduce energy waste.

Goldberg and Palmer Square Management, which is funding the development on its own, have made much of the indirect environmental impact of the new homes. Located in the center of what essentially has become an upscale city neighborhood, the Residences will put its residents less than 500 feet from most of Downtown Princeton’s core attractions. In other words, people will be living near the kinds of places — restaurants, shops, the university itself —they want to visit, rather than having to get into a car and drive to them.

Goldberg says the idea behind the Residences echoes the original vision of Edgar Palmer, namesake of the square and Palmer Stadium (formerly) at Princeton University. Palmer had tried to build a European-style walking village amid a quasi-metropolitan downtown, but never lived to see his ideas come to full fruition. There have long been apartments atop the businesses in Palmer Square (about 125 of them) but this is finally the realization of Palmer’s vision of family living in the square. “This completes a piece of the puzzle,” Goldberg says. “It makes living in Palmer Square part of an urban lifestyle.”

Goldberg is an urban child himself, a Philadelphia native who studied journalism and advertising at Penn State. His father is Milton Goldberg, editor of the seminal Reagan-era report on the state of the American education system, “A Nation at Risk.” The senior Goldberg, a longtime administrator in the Philadelphia school system went onto the National Institute of Education (forerunner of the federal Department of Education), where he helped then-Secretary of Education William Bennett to develop the first major report on the country’s educational system.

Goldberg’s mother also was an educator, a biology teacher in Philadelphia. Both parents hold Ph.D.s from Temple, but Goldberg did not want to follow them into education. Instead he built a career in advertising in Philadelphia and New York for 20 years. He switched jobs to a firm involved in real estate, and got involved in sales. In 2008 he joined his wife at her realty firm in Pennington.

Stasse founded Stasse & Company as Creations Home Design Studio in 1999 following an eight-year tenure at K. Hovnanian Companies. She went into real estate right after high school, says Goldberg, who married her two years ago.

Beginning her career at Trafalgar House Residential, now Beazer Homes, Stasse moved to K. Hovnanian Companies in 1991. There she was instrumental in the origination of K. Hovnanian’s 18,000-square-foot design studio in Edison, where she and Goldberg met.

Goldberg is a 1982 graduate of Penn State. Prior to the company, he held the position of vice president, sales and marketing for national homebuilder D.R. Horton.

Goldbrg and Stasse have an 08540 ZIP code, but their home is in Hopewell. They moved there from Lawrence six years ago and live with Goldberg’s two children.

Goldberg says he and the family “almost fit the profile” of those who have bought into the Residences at Palmer Square, and he has not ruled out that in a few years he and his wife might make good candidates to live in the development themselves. “Most of the buyers are a lttle older than us,” he says, “but ultimately, yes, we would be candidates to live there.”

#b#Stasse and Company#/b#, 108 Straube Center Boulevard, Suite I-17, Pennington 08534; 609-730-9900; fax, 609-730-9046. Jodi Ann Stasse, president.

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