The small town of West Windsor, NJ is home to one of the busiest commuter rail stations in the country, and the town has plans to put that station at the heart of a new walkable neighborhood.
West Windsor is one of New Jersey’s 26 state-designated transit villages, meaning the town has shown a commitment to revitalizing and redeveloping the area around its transit stations into walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods with a strong residential component.
In West Windsor specifically, that has involved creating new plans for the underutilized land around the Princeton Junction Station. Replacing parking lots with parking decks, adding up to 147,500 square feet of commercial and retail space, creating a future rapid transit bus facility and transportation improvements, and 800 new housing units are all part of the new project. At least 12.2 percent of housing (98 units total) will be affordable to low- and moderate-income households.
The transit village wasn’t part of West Windsor’s original plan when Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh first came in to office. But as he worked to create a sense of place in the bedroom community he realized a transit village or town center model was exactly what the township needed.
“I took over the mayor’s office in 2001,” he explains in the video above. “And before I took over almost no one in our town talked about the town center or the transit village. Basically we talked about independent, isolated communities.
“After I took over I tried to change that mentality. I wanted [people] to start thinking, ‘We all come from West Windsor.’ And we built the connections and integration…After 11 years, people have come to see the importance of town centers.”
In February 2013, Hsueh spoke about West Windsor’s progress in implementing transit oriented development at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Kansas City, MO. In the past decade, West Windsor has also adopted a bicycle and pedestrian master plan, and received national recognition for bicycle friendliness, its farmer’s market, and its senior center – all elements Mayor Hsueh believes are essential to creating a strong and vibrant community.
Mayor Hsueh serves on the Advisory Board of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, a nonpartisan group of municipal officials who share a passion for building great towns, cities, and communities. True to the spirit of the Council, Mayor Hsueh is not only making West Windsor a better place to live; he’s also collaborating with fellow mayors from across New Jersey to address regional issues.
“You’re going to see there’s got to be more coordination and cooperation throughout the whole region for more area-wide regional perspective. That was also one of the reasons why in 2009 I started talking to all the municipalities and the mayors in the whole region, starting from South Brunswick to Lawrenceville, and they’re all in agreement to work together as a regional mayors coalition. Basically we try to focus on issues like transportation, traffic circulation, and environmental protection from a regional perspective. Because, you know, all these environmental qualities or traffic circulation don’t recognize political boundaries. And we need to start thinking about what we need to do to be all winners, instead of ‘I get mine and you don’t get yours.’ If you really want to have a quality of life it’s not just for one town to upgrade your quality of life. You need all of us to work together.”