Innovative mixed-use Nelson Glass House adds housing density, responsibly

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Innovative mixed-use Nelson Glass House adds housing density, responsibly
“Nelson Glass House is sustainable, accessible, and celebrates Princeton’s architectural diversity,” he adds. “And the street-facing retail has activated the street socially, in a way that neighbors appreciate.”

PRINCETON, NJ.- In a neighborhood just outside the central business district – a “transition zone” mixing residential and commercial properties – the site of a former glass-and-aluminum fabrication shop now features six elegant new apartments, set atop a reimagined commercial space hosting a coffee counter and a cigar bar.

Designed by globally known, locally focused firm Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design (JZA+D) Nelson Glass House is maybe most notable for bringing a modern aesthetic to a street dominated by traditional architecture. Not only are neighbors delighted by the new housing and retail options, developers are taking note of the innovative approach to increasing density in areas where approvals for innovation are notoriously hard to wrangle.

According to Joshua Zinder, AIA, LEED AP, funder and managing partner of JZA+D and the lead designer on the project, solutions like this are key to creating much-needed missing-middle housing: affordable and sustainable multifamily developments at house scale in diverse, walkable communities.

“The Nelson family have owned both 45 Spring Street, and the house next door to it for decades, so we were designing the redevelopment for a client who loves the neighborhood as much as anyone else,” says Zinder. “They understood what it would mean to add more housing here, and what the right approach to redevelopment would mean for the block’s longtime residents.”

“Nelson Glass House is sustainable, accessible, and celebrates Princeton’s architectural diversity,” he adds. “And the street-facing retail has activated the street socially, in a way that neighbors appreciate.”

Zinder’s team designed an addition rising to just under the height of neighboring apartment buildings. Each floor is stepped back from the one below to reduce the massing and allow light and air to reach the street level while also creating terraces for residents to enjoy.

The nearly 11,000 new square feet of development in the center of Princeton offers a 1-bedroom, three 2-bedroom, and two 3-bedroom units, including one unit earmarked as affordable housing. All of them enjoy modern interiors with energy- and water-efficient appliances and fixtures, plus exposed brick and plenty of daylight. Shared amenities include an elevator for ease of access, on-site parking, and bike storage.

The exterior blends brick with glass rails and aluminum trim — a nod to the legacy of the Nelson Glass & Aluminum Company, and the contributions of the family owners. The design meets LEED Silver-level requirements for green building, with features like a planted green roof and parking lot composed of permeable pavers for managing stormwater.

According to Zinder, developers who have seen Nelson Glass House are keen to replicate its success in other neighborhoods and towns.

“This exact design won’t work everywhere, but it shows that innovative strategies for adding housing in contextually sensitive areas can win approvals,” says Zinder. “Adding units above commercial space is just one strategy among many we’ve developed for building the communities that people want, and that every growing municipality needs.”

Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design (JZA+D)
Located in Princeton, New Jersey, the emerging practice JZA+D was founded in 2006 by principal Joshua Zinder, AIA, to deliver multidisciplinary services for sustainable and contemporary buildings, interiors, and product designs. The collective educational and professional experience of JZA+D’s staff spans more than a century in global markets, and its staff is encouraged and inspired to be cooperative partners, good listeners, and creative problem-solvers. JZA+D has won numerous design awards and its work has been seen in publications around the world. The staff actively participates in trade and professional organizations such as AIA, NCARB, USGBC, ACSA, IIDA, IOREBA, NJRA and Gotham Networking.

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