Construction on the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro has begun, and already its effects can be seen on the surrounding community. Three new buildings in Plainsboro’s Village Center, originally intended for commercial and residential use, are now expected to house medical offices.

“Now, with the hospital very much a reality, there is a plan change that is going to the Planning Board to essentially keep two buildings attached as a medical office building,” said Les Varga, the township’s director of planning and zoning. The new plan may come before Plainsboro’s planning board as early as Monday, September 21.

The new buildings would be located near the intersection of Schalks Crossing and Scudders Mill roads in Plainsboro. Plans include two buildings, totaling 30,000 square feet, at least half of which would consist of medical offices located in the village, Varga said.

“There may be other offices in there,” Varga noted, adding that Sharbell is “working with a group of doctors” on the new buildings but is unsure if it will use all or half of the building for medical offices. “The assumption is that it would be medically related,” Varga explained.

“There is another 15,000-square foot building with commercial on the ground floor and residential on floors two and three,” Varga added. “Whether they are condominiums or apartments has yet to be determined.”

The new plans would enable the village to capitalize on its proximity to the hospital. “For the village, there’s everything that comes along with visiting the doctor,” Varga said. “There is foot traffic and having to wait. Besides the library and doctor’s offices and the shops and restaurants, this is the mixed-use mentality that a town center needs, not just one use.”

The change in the plans has been reviewed by the township’s Development Review Committee, where certain comments were made to Sharbell officials. Sharbell officials need to resubmit their plans with the recommended changes and comments from the DRC to have it on the agenda for the September 21 planning board meeting, Varga said.

Located on 50 acres of a 160-acre site in Plainsboro off Route 1, the new UMCPP is a replacement hospital for the current UMCP on Witherspoon Street in Princeton. When the new hospital opens in late 2011, it will consist of 636,000 square feet of interior space, including 237 single patient rooms.

Construction began on the care and rehabilitation center, located south of the news hospital, in July. The 105,000-square-foot New Merwick Center will consist of a cluster of buildings on more than six acres overlooking the Millstone River and a 35-acre park. The facility will contain 80 beds of sub-acute care and 120 beds of long-term care. It will replace an existing 83-bed facility on Bayard Lane in Princeton.

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