Transit village to add North Brunswick station

January 22, 2007

Stephanie Wynalek

A series of public meetings, which began in the spring of last year as part of the "visioning process" for the proposed North Brunswick Transit Village, are entering a new phase as the plans for the redevelopment are becoming more concrete.

"This is our tenth public meeting," said John Taikina, North Brunswick Transit-Oriented Developments Associates' director of planning of development. "And that is exciting. We're very pleased with the turnout, and the input has made for a better project."

The proposed Transit Village will be located on the 212-acre site which was formerly the Johnson & Johnson North Brunswick campus and was acquired by the developer in June of 2006.

The property is adjacent to Route 1 and the Northeast Corridor railway line and is located midway between the commuter rail station in Princeton Junction and the one at Jersey Avenue in New Brunswick

The fourteen-mile spread between the two stations is the longest stretch on the Northeast Corridor line without a station stop.

The redevelopment could include not only a new train station, but also office and retail space, restaurants, residential space, a hotel, a grass amphitheatre, a new public library, a community center and an emergency services substation.

Community input has been largely responsible for the design of the project, Taikina said.

"We really didn't have a specific plan coming in as the developer. We thought it would be selfish to tell the residents what to do with their town."

The total area proposed for the Transit Village is approximately the same size footprint as the existing facility and would retain about 50 percent of the site as open space, in keeping with Smart Growth principles.

"Smart Growth to me means no more suburban sprawl," said Dan Disaraio of Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, a member of the resource team for the project. "It's focusing development and providing a wide array of uses," Disaraio said. "If you were to draw up an example of a Smart Growth project in New Jersey, this would be it."

Disaraio added that the plan would also promote the concept of interior trips.

"If someone is living in the village, they will not need to get in their car and drive to the dry cleaners or the store," he said. "They could simply walk to that location within the development. Less external traffic would be generated."

The project would bring financial benefits to North Brunswick as well, according to a Fiscal Impact Study conducted by the Center for Urban Policy Research at the University.

The study found that the proposed Transit Village would significantly increase the municipal tax base and produce an annual local fiscal surplus. The existing development produces approximately $1.7 million annually in property taxes, and the new project would be able to turn out roughly 15 to 20 times more annually.

Disaraio said the proposed Transit Village would not only bring in new finances, but would also serve as a catalyst for correcting local traffic problems.

"This is going to be an impetus to fix existing bottlenecks and other issues," he said. Taikina confirmed that "existing traffic problems must be addressed," For being host to this regional transit hub, North Brunswick has a price of admission. We want these things fixed first."

Disaraio's presentation at the most recent community meeting for the project pinpointed several bottlenecks near the project site, including the intersections of Route 1 and Finnegan's Lane, Route 1 and Commerce Boulevard, Route 1 and Adams Lane and Route 130 and Renaissance Boulevard East.

Disaraio said there's a consideration for peak traffic hours in a case study on the Jersey Avenue station. "And we've planned for 3,000 parking spaces, in addition to correcting the existing access issues," Disaraio said.

With the completion of the "visioning process," the developer plans to appear before the township council and planning boards to formalize a zoning amendment for the plan. This series of meetings will also be open to the community.