By Jim Sykes and Laurie Rabon

As part of its ongoing effort to support and advocate for the Princeton business community, the Princeton Merchants association is always on the lookout for new opportunities to benefit our members.

The latest project, which is in partnership with Princeton University, is the creation of a community map that can be used as a resource to help people coming to town find the locations of the myriad businesses in town.

According to Kristin Appelget, Princeton University director of community and regional affairs, the map project was generated as part of the University’s ongoing Arts and Transit Project. The University was developing a large community map that would act as a companion to the campus map that they are featuring at the new Princeton train station.

“As we began work on that project, it became apparent that there are locations in the town other than just at the station, where once this map was completed, it would be great to have it available,” Appelget said. “It was a natural for the University to go to the Princeton Merchants Association to discuss the project.”

The PMA enthusiastically received the idea and formed a subcommittee, with membership from the PMA and the University. We worked for more than a year to draft the map.

“The final result is that we are able to leverage the investment that the University was making to have a map created to benefit the town,” says Appelget. “The PMA helped us collect and gather information about the businesses in Princeton for the inaugural map, and the it will be maintaining the map going forward, so that it continues to be a relevant and up-to-date resource for the community.”

The community map, which is about 3 feet by 3 feet in size — will be featured in a large display case at the train station, accompanied by the already existing map of the campus. We are also hoping to place the map in several locations around town, including the Nassau Inn, the Visitor’s Center in the U-Store, Borough Hall, and the Princeton Public Library.

Meanwhile, we are paying to created reduced-size versions of the map — something that our members can hand out to customers. Currently, we’re planning on having 11×17 and 8.5×11 versions. In addition, we’re planning to digitize the map, so it will be available digitally.

The community map, which is done in a directory style, focuses on the central business district, a larger view of Princeton from Nassau Street to the municipal complex, and along Nassau Street from Monument Hall to the Harrison Street intersection. There is also an inset map featuring the Princeton Shopping and businesses that are further down the Witherspoon Street area near town hall.

Identified on the map are all ground-floor in town — so it’s not just members of the PMA, but something that’s more inclusive. Not included are services such as accountants, lawyers, and real estate companies.

“This is really intended for the person who is visiting Princeton,” says Appelget. “It identifies shopping, dining, retail and associated services that someone who is here for a short-term stay might be looking for.”

Other uses for the map might be to give it to new residents who move into Princeton, or to employees at the various businesses to help let them know what is available in other areas of town.

Also identified on the map are Princeton landmarks, such as the Einstein statue, the Paul Robeson statue, Tiger Park, Morven Museum, the Princeton cemetery, Nassau Hall, the Princeton Theological Seminary and the Battle Monument. There will also be notations for points of interest that are off the map, such as Drumthwacket mansion, McCarter Theatre, and the Thomas Clarke House.

The ongoing process of maintaining and updating the map will involve tracking all of the businesses that change, go out of business or morph into something different. At least once or twice a year, the PMA will go back through and try to refresh the map to reflect any changes.

The overall hope is that the map will help drive more customers to the businesses in town. In Princeton, we get thousands, if not millions, of visitors over the course of the year, and many of them are looking for something to help them find their their way around. This map will be a major improvement to the visitor experience when they come to Princeton in the future.

Princeton is a great shopping destination, and like a mall, it’s important for people to be able to navigate that shopping destination. We’ve never had an asset like this, where someone can visit the town and in one map see all of the businesses — just like they would if they looked at a directory at the mall. We feel that in many ways, this project will helps make us much more competitive and an easier place to shop and visit from a customer standpoint.

“This was a natural opportunity for us, when we realized that we were developing s resource for visitors who were arriving at the train station,” Appelget says. “Making sure that connecting visitors to the great resources in the town is a continuation of the many town-gown partnerships that we have. The University has very strong relations with our local business community and this was another way for us to continue those partnerships.”

“It adds visibility to all of our partners within the PMA and the town as a whole,” she added. “Anything we can do to help support the visitor experience, helps serve all of our partners.”

Jim Sykes is president of the Princeton University U-Store and a member of the PMA Governance Committee. Laurie Rabon is general manager of the Nassau Inn and a member of the PMA Board. The Hometown Princeton column is provided monthly by the PMA. On the web: princetonmerchants.org.