PRINCETON: School buys more land on Alexander

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton University continues to amass property on Alexander Street toward eventually redeveloping the area. The Larini’s Service Center at the corner of Faculty Road is the latest acquisition.
Kristin S. Appelget, the university’s director of community and regional affairs, said Monday the purchase was made Friday for an amount that she declined to disclose. She said the property would not operate as a gas station, but said the school is in talks with a potential tenant.
In the long term, the site fits into the broader vision that the school has to redevelop Alexander through a mix of retail and residential uses. The school, the major landholder in that part of town, has said that it sees the area attractive to university users and the public, given its proximity to the campus and the train station.
Prior to consolidation, university and then-Princeton Township officials had discussed having the area rezoned from its current status as a service area; that part of town had been used for lumber yards and feed stores. The township was amenable to rezoning, but those discussions were put on hold pending the merger with the borough.
Councilman Lance Liverman, a former Township Committeeman, said Monday that the school had not said anything recently about redeveloping that corridor, as the university has focused on its arts and transit and other projects. “They’ve got a ton of stuff going on at the university,” he said.
For his part, Council President Bernard P. Miller said Monday that he sees the land purchase as the university trying to control and improve the various gateways to the school. He said the school owns a lot of land on Alexander, and thinks the area “probably” would have to be rezoned.
In January 2014, Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said she and officials would be faced with a university request to rezone that area. So far, such a request has not been forthcoming.
She and the rest of the Princeton Council would have to vote on whether or not to change the zoning to accommodate the school’s needs. She said the school would realize a “huge profit” since any change in zoning would increase the value of the land.
“It would be a shame to lose a service district, because I think Princetonians appreciate not having to drive out to Route 1 …,” Ms. Crumiller said. “Losing a gas station in that location is making life less convenient for residents.”