By Anne Levin
The decision by Mercer County to build a roundabout on Rosedale Road this summer came as welcome news to area residents, who had lobbied for years for traffic calming at General Johnson Drive and Greenway Meadows. Construction began a few weeks ago. But due to the behavior of some motorists — ignoring road closure signs and moving barricades — the site, where a pedestrian was killed last August, continues to be dangerous.
“Access to Johnson Park Elementary School and the park is only from the west side. You cannot go through the construction zone to get from one side to the other, but people are doing that,” said Jim Purcell, Princeton’s assistant municipal engineer, on Tuesday. “I was out there this morning with a police officer, and we actually turned three cars away. And this was while the contractors were out there doing work. It is truly a construction zone, and there are open trenches, equipment, and materials they cannot get through. I’m pleading with the public to please pay attention. Driving through a construction zone is unsafe. And so is moving barricades.”
The Rosedale Road roundabout is just one of several sites throughout Princeton where some sort of construction is in progress. In and around downtown, and on the Princeton University campus, workers are in the process of demolishing, blasting, and building.
At the Graduate Hotel project, which has closed Chambers Street in one direction as demolition has been completed along the street, things are going more smoothly than expected. The hotel is to be located in the former office building at 20 Nassau Street, with new construction along Chambers Street where a row of shops stood until recently.
“I haven’t heard complaints from any of the neighbors on Bank Street,” said Purcell. “We do hear from people who work on Chambers Street about the traffic pattern. It’s difficult for them, but we knew it would be. We respond to their concerns as soon as we hear from them.”
Workers are currently hauling away debris as cleanup is being completed. The next phase will be to bring in a crane that will be set up in the excavation area. The Graduate, which is part of a chain of
hotels in college towns, is projected for completion around the fall of 2023.
Along Witherspoon Street, work is continuing to replace the sanitary sewer, projected for the beginning of August. On Monday, August 8, according to the current schedule, a portion of the east side of the roadway, from Nassau Street to Spring Street, will be closed off to allow demolition of the existing sidewalk and pavement to be replaced with new pavers. Pedestrian access to the local businesses will be maintained.
“It should take about six weeks. Then, sometime in September, we move to the west side of the street,” said Purcell. “And we will be unveiling the new pavers and widened sidewalks on the east side, so people will get an idea of what it will look like.”
Construction continues at the former U.S. Post Office in Palmer Square, where Triumph Brewing Company is planned to move. The project has been stalled multiple times, but is now underway. “We’re bringing in the second of the large brewing tanks today,” said Purcell. “We’re using a crane to lift them and put them in the basement.”
Across town at the Princeton Shopping Center, the first phase of a project to build a new site for the Walgreens store in the southwest corner of the center is underway. Walgreens is being moved to make way for an inclusionary housing development that will include 200 new homes and 40 affordable units.
“This will be three or four months of construction,” said Purcell. “The housing will expand over to where Walgreens currently exists, and that part will be demolished. The Verizon store will remain in place.”
The controversial demolition of three buildings on the Tennent-Roberts-Whiteley campus at Princeton Theological Seminary, designed in part by noted architect Rolf Bauhan, is to begin soon, “we think,” said Purcell. Despite lobbying by members of the Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development, the project is going through. The tear-downs along Stockton Street at Hibben Road are to be replaced with multi-family housing, including affordable units, by developer Jamie Herring.
Among the many construction projects at Princeton University are the facilities of the Lake Campus, including graduate housing, a parking garage, softball stadium, racquet center, and more. A new health center along Washington Road is in the beginning stages of construction. A parking garage for the new ES & SEAS (Environmental Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences) is scheduled to open in the fall, along with a new soccer stadium.