Developer: Tell us what to put at J&J
Series of public hearings set on Route 1 site’s future
BY JENNIFER AMATO
The contract purchasers of the North Brunswick Johnson & Johnson property have established a meeting schedule to encourage public input for the development of the property on Route 1.
North Brunswick T.O.D. Associates LLC, an operating company of Garden Commercial Properties, will hold a series of public information sessions throughout February and March to formulate ideas for the redevelopment of the 210-acre site.
“We are committed to giving the public live, interesting sessions [while] guiding their decision-making and comments,” said John Taikina, director of planning and development for T.O.D. Associates.
The company, which has no affiliation with Johnson & Johnson, will host its first workshop Feb. 23. J. Robert Hillier, of Hillier Architecture in Princeton, will discuss smart growth principles and how since World War II separate spaces for houses, offices, manufacturing facilities and retail have caused increased vehicular traffic, while town centers and “main streets” have thrived to create community unity.
“While a single-family house on a half-acre of land is the right choice for some people, it is not right for everyone. Some people like mixed uses and vibrancy,” Taikina said.
Residents are encouraged to bring photographs or magazine cut-outs of development scenarios they like, or don’t like, to enhance the visual aspect of the meeting.
“People go on vacation to Europe or to quaint towns, [or] people go to Princeton as tourists. People go there, and these are places they love. We think North Brunswick can be that kind of place,” Taikina said.
In addition, Jack Kanarek, the director of Rail Planning at NJ Transit, will speak about why NJ Transit believes a transit village is an appropriate component for the town, and how smart growth is encouraged around a station.
Although North Brunswick has not yet committed itself to a transit village, the idea has been heavily circulated among its residents. As a result, Kanarek will provide information about the mixed uses of a station, parking, security, attractiveness and vibrancy.
“There are no station plans yet, but we are ready to commit to the resources which can determine the parameters,” Taikina said.
A third speaker, Monica Etz, the transit village coordinator for the state Department of Transportation, will explain the criteria for applying for transit village designation. She will speak of special grant funding and permit programs that facilitate smart growth areas.
Afterward, a half-hour will be allotted for a public question-and-answer session.
“This will really give us an opportunity to talk to the public on a one-on-one level that you can’t really do at a Planning Board meeting,” Taikina said.
On March 2, the entire workshop will be dedicated to public input. Residents can discuss their wishes for a library, a community center, low-cost houses for recent college graduates who don’t want to move out of town, new jobs to be created, stores they would like to see locally, or any concepts they have for the town, according to Taikina.
“We want to encourage discussion and see what people think,” he said.
For the following three to five weeks, T.O.D. Associates will compile all of the ideas and “put them on paper” so that residents can visualize them. The company will formulate about three or four ideas to present to the public on March 23.
“It is very good to get input from the public unvarnished in the beginning, but then it is very important to give them something to react to,” Taikina said.
In a process that will consume that entire weekend, the professional planners, township officials and T.O.D. Associates will develop the first concepts of the plan, altered to suit the needs of the public. On March 28 a more formalized plan will be presented to bring out the public consensus.
“From that, we should begin to get a good sense of where we are,” Taikina said. “We hope that over the month’s process, we can generate excitement in town.”
The meetings on Feb. 23 and March 2 are scheduled for 6:30-9 p.m. at the Yellowbird Reception Center at 2300 Route 1. Light refreshments will be served. The subsequent meeting times and locations are to be determined. For more information, visit www.OurTownCenter.info.