Below is the statement I gave on the AvalonBay site plan at the Planning Board hearing. I’m sharing it because I have been quoted out of context.
I was on the design committee that met with AvalonBay to see what areas of compromise they might be willing to make that would improve the design in terms of the community’s priorities, which are spelled out pretty clearly in the design standards. What was immediately apparent was that AvalonBay had a design that fits the AvalonBay model and that it was their intent to do things the AvalonBay way, not the Princeton way. AvalonBay has developed a brand that they believe is best for them and that they feel their customers expect – we heard that over and over. They did tweak the design here and there, and you can see those results in the chart and letters we just got. But they did not change it much. We begged for breaks in the façade along Franklin, which would both look more attractive and appear in keeping with the neighborhood and provide the open-ness that I feel the design standards are calling for. Further, when we suggested we might support an increased building height if they would go higher in the center of the site and lower around the edges, they made clear they would not do that, even if it were more convenient for their residents who might wish to live closer to the parking garage. The overriding theme was “Avalon Bay is a brand and that’s what you get.”
AvalonBay has apparently been successful around the country and even in nearby towns marketing its apartment buildings. But AvalonBay, in refusing to stray from its brand, refuses to acknowledge the distinct character of Princeton. This is clear when you look at these four design standards that were clearly disregarded:
C)2 Both existing and new building facades should be designed with variable openings that are pedestrian friendly and break up the building face
C)6 Open spaces and plazas should be inviting to the public and serve as a connection between surrounding neighborhood and any new development. [Trees and plantings should be used to define and frame pedestrian ways and open spaces as well as provide shade.]
D4) Open spaces should be designed to encourage the interaction of people living within the new development and the neighborhood. The development shall have an enhanced system of public open spaces and pathways that provide linkages between and through the evelopment as well as the surrounding neighborhood.
a) 8New construction should be concentrated in the central portion of the site and building setback should increase as building height rises
I believe these design standards are reasonable and that they’re there for a reason – to protect the character and integrity of our old-fashioned neighborhoods. The plan does not comply with them.