The idea of a mixed-use development in the shadow of the Princeton Junction train station — talked about by urban planners, developers, and West Windsor officials and residents for decades — took a step toward reality on July 11 when West Windsor Township Council narrowly approved a settlement with a developer planning to build 800 housing units and 100,000 square feet of retail space in the tract now occupied by office space at 14 Washington Road.
The developer, Steve Goldin of InterCap Properties, has owned 25 acres in the area between the southbound side parking lot of the train station and Princeton-Hightstown Road. The Intercap property is part of the 350-acre property designated for redevelopment as a transit village by West Windsor. In 2007 the planning for the overall redevelopment was launched with a series of “charrettes” organized by the Hillier Architecture firm and attended by as many as 500 mostly enthusiastic residents.
But the project got delayed because of opposition from elected officials and residents who feared a possible influx of schoolchildren. When the plan finally was approved, Goldin sued the township because he was unhappy with the limited number of housing units permitted under the redevelopment. That lawsuit, filed under the state’s Mount Laurel affordable housing policy, led to a settlement and then another challenge — from the Fair Share Housing Center, which wanted more affordable housing as part of the plan.
Now the final settlement will include 800 total units with 98 affordable units — 80 of which will be rental and 18 of which will be for sale. The original settlement had called for 800 units, including 40 designated as affordable. The housing will average two bedrooms in size.
Under the terms of the agreement, there will be no separate building for the affordable units. The 98 units will be dispersed throughout the project. The most notable feature of the settlement is a 50,000-square-foot “promenade” that would provide a public area for residents and a “shared space” between cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The integrated development would not include any office space. Under the agreement, InterCap will construct 100,000 square feet of retail space correlated with the phasing of residential units.
“We are grateful for the leadership and support demonstrated last evening by council members (Kamal) Khanna, (George) Borek, and (Diane) Ciccone,” said Goldin, referring to the members who provided the 3-2 majority. “By putting the interests of West Windsor taxpayers first, it takes West Windsor another step closer to enjoying the new shops, restaurants, and public gathering space the public has for so long desired.”
Goldin has long been a proponent of “new urbanism,” which he has described as “a mix of uses that allows people to meet their daily needs in one place without getting in their car” (U.S. 1, May 28, 2008).
While some West Windsor residents have already predicted that the new housing by the train tracks will attract 1,000 or more new children to the public school system, proponents of the new urbanism see a demand for housing within walking distance of mass transit that will attract empty nesters and young professionals who seek easy access to arts, entertainment, and shopping, and prefer not to be encumbered by lawns and home improvement projects. The fact that the West Windsor development would be within a minute’s walk of both the main line to New York and Philadelphia and also the Dinky line to downtown Princeton is not lost on Goldin and other new urbanists.
While the West Windsor development has wended through the legal process, Goldin has been active in another capacity: as head of the real estate division of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which is hoping to create similar transit-oriented development along its rail lines. Goldin’s efforts with WMATA were highlighted in a May 31 article in the New York Times.
In West Windsor ordinances accompanying the settlement agreement will be on the agenda for introduction at the council’s next meeting on Monday, July 18. Once introduced, the ordinances will head to the Planning Board, which has 45 days to review the ordinances and make recommendations, if any, to the council before adoption.
The approved settlement agreement also reflects a change in the number of parking spaces for residential units, which will decrease from 1.5 parking spaces to 1.4375 spaces for each unit. The new settlement also reflects an agreement to extend the affordable housing controls for affordable units from 30 to 35 years.