Seniors poised to fulfill wish to age in place


By: Packet Editorial
   It looks as though the long battle for senior housing in Princeton may finally be on the threshold of victory — and that will be joyous news to the next generation of senior Princetonians.
   For the present generation, however, news of the 140-unit age-restricted housing development proposed by K. Hovnanian on Bunn Drive in Princeton Township — welcome though it is — comes a shade too late. Just in the past few months, many of the longtime advocates for senior housing in Princeton have packed up and moved to Stonebridge in Montgomery, not necessarily because they wanted to leave Princeton but because there was nothing available to them in their own hometown.
   By all accounts, the former Princetonians are generally happy in their new digs, despite having surrendered their decades-old 921 or 924 phone number (which they all remember as Walnut 1 or Walnut 4) and that coveted 08540 ZIP code. But we know many of them would have preferred to stay in Princeton. And it will surely be a bittersweet experience for them when some of their old friends and neighbors, who decided to hold out for a few more years, become the first residents of the garden-apartment-style senior housing project that was unveiled at the Princeton Regional Planning Board meeting last week.
   It’s a long way, of course, from the drawing board to the groundbreaking to the certificate of occupancy — just ask the Princetonians-turned-Stonebridgians, who plunked down their deposits years ago and didn’t start getting their keys until this past December. While it’s conceivable Hovnanian could get a major project like this up and running in Princeton Township faster than Presbyterian Homes and Services did in Montgomery, we seriously doubt it.
   So we hope all those transplanted Princetonians join us in cheering the news that the seeds they planted as tireless advocates for senior housing over the years may finally be bearing fruit. At long last, a significant age-restricted housing proposal has been put forward by a reputable developer on a piece of property in Princeton Township deliberately carved out for this purpose.
   Much of the credit for this goes to the Township Committee. Urged on by so many of its now-former constituents (along with a sizeable contingent from the borough), the committee worked long and hard to put together an overlay-zoning scheme that would encourage senior housing on the Bunn Drive site. It endured formidable legal challenges and conducted extensive negotiations with neighbors and interest groups to delineate those areas of the township where age-restricted housing would be both appropriate and desirable.
   And that perseverance now appears to have paid off. The concept plan put forward by Hovnanian seems to be very close to what the committee and senior-housing advocates have been seeking. While the estimated price range — $300,000 to $375,000 — won’t meet too many people’s definition of affordable (Hovnanian will make a cash contribution to the affordable-housing fund rather than provide affordable units at the site), it is not out of line for condominium units on the Princeton Ridge. And while it won’t have all the amenities of Stonebridge (it’s an age-restricted housing development, not a continuing-care retirement community), it will certainly fulfill the wish expressed by so many of Princeton’s senior citizens — to age in place.
   Together with the expansion of Elm Court, this project represents a major step forward for senior housing in Princeton. Everyone involved — especially the active senior citizens who made their political presence felt over the years — deserves three cheers for a job well done. Just make sure they’re loud enough to be heard in Montgomery.