The offices on Vaughn Drive and Alexander Park may soon have company – residential, retail, and more offices – if New Jersey Transit’s vision study for a transit village at the Princeton Junction train station becomes reality.
NJT on June 24 released the results of the year-long study that looked at the redevelopment of the area on the Route 1 side of the train station.
The concept plan proposes a village with three districts – a new 445-unit residential neighborhood on Washington Road, a 174,000-square-foot office district on Alexander Road, and a mixed-use village core on the west side of the train station. The village core is proposed to be comprised of 355 residential units, 120,000 square feet of retail, and 90,000 square feet of office space.
The plan would also increase the amount of commuter parking at the site by 360 spaces – about 10 percent over the existing 3,635.
NJT, in cooperation with West Windsor, and the state Department of Community Affairs, started the vision study about a year ago to determine the feasibility of a transit village at the station and to draft a concept plan, or "vision," of what might be done with the site. The majority of the project would be built on land owned by the township and NJT, including the Vaughn Drive parking lots, and the township compost station on Alexander Road.
West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh says the transit village plan is "doable," but there are still many issues to settle before the project gets the green light. They include the results of a bus rapid transit feasibility study being conducted by the state; a study by township professionals as to whether the downtown Junction qualifies as a redevelopment district; the reconstruction of Vaughn Drive into the train station; and the reconstruction of Route 571 through the Princeton Junction downtown area.
Ultimately the township will have the final say as to whether the plan gets built or not. The development would require master plan and zoning changes that would all be subject to public hearings.
The development also hinges on the construction by the state Department of Transportation of the Vaughn Drive connector – a road that would replace the current Vaughn Drive entrance to the train station and run through the property connecting Alexander Road to Washington Road. The connector was proposed as part of the Millstone Bypass study.
The new Vaughn Drive is proposed to be a landscaped boulevard that balances the street’s necessary through-traffic function with its potential as a commercial and residential street, states the vision study.
The village core, located between the Vaughn Drive connector and the railroad tracks, is seen as being a mix of different uses with walkable, "high-quality" public spaces and streets lined with active ground level uses.
The village core would be focused on a new main street leading to the station. The area immediately around the station would feature a new series of public spaces accommodating car, bus, and train transfers and a plaza for bus rapid transit (BRT).
Since the village core would be located in the current Vaughn Drive lots, parking would be accommodated by the construction of four parking garages in the village core. The garages would provide parking for 2,870 cars.
The Alexander Park office district would be located at the southwestern end of the site along Alexander Road as an extension to the existing commercial offices in the area. The buildings would be a maximum of three stories in height, with surface parking in the interior of the new development sites.
The district would be served by a new road running from Alexander Road (near the current entrance to Old Bear Brook Road) and connecting to the Vaughn Drive Connector.
The Washington Road residential neighborhood is envisioned as being "low in scale, and oriented to the street" in an effort to conform with the township’s residential neighborhoods "rather than create a more urban enclave."
The proposed housing mix is three-story, multi-family buildings on the new Vaughn Drive, and townhouses oriented to the side streets. Parking would be located below, or in the interior of the block.