The shopping center in West Windsor that many people still think of as our main one is the one on the west side of Hightstown Road at the intersection with Alexander Road in Princeton Junction.
Today, it’s called Windsor Plaza. The main store there recently has been Mrs Green’s, the market that currently appears to be closing. In fact, it appears that some of the other places will be renovated. Not too many years ago, the main store there was an Acme market, located where Mrs. Green’s was until a few years ago.
That was before we had a new McCaffrey’s farther east on the same road in what is officially known as the Southfield Shopping Center. And with McCaffrey’s came a number of other places that you usually expect to find near a supermarket.
But as the old place was redeveloped without the Acme, its design took on a strange new look.
In fact, for a while it appeared that the design changes to the building indicated that part of the space would now be devoted to residential use.
Some people thought there would now be apartments and condos over the stores. The new architecture certainly looked that way.
There were many bay windows protruding from the roof, along with decorative towers near the corners of the building. But a main problem was that there did not appear to be any way to get upstairs from the ground level.
There were no stairways or elevators with access from the outside of the building or within any of the stores. A couple of the new towers near the corners of the building looked big enough to accommodate stairways, but there were no doors to reach them from outside.
The idea of possible residential use caught the attention of the township for a while, and questions of the adequacy of drainage, water supply and sewer connections came up.
Apparently, any serious issues of that kind were resolved, but not without public comment that brought out some of the potential unexpected aspects of commercial development. In a developing town like West Windsor, such matters are encountered frequently.
As the new construction proceeded, it became clear that the architectural changes were simply for show.
The bay windows weren’t windows at all. Although they contain glass (or plastic), the light transmitted through it has nothing to illuminate on the other side. The bay windows were simply protrusions built into the roof to make it look more interesting, at least to some people.
Now, starting at the rear corner of the building at the Alexander Road end, there’s a large four-sided tower extending above the roof. What’s it for? Decoration, apparently.
After observing the design changes to Windsor Plaza for some months, it was easy to recognize design similarities with other shopping centers in central New Jersey.
Once, when I was driving along Route 9 in Monmouth County, I noticed a number of shopping centers of a similar design every few miles. It seemed that every town of reasonable size along that highway had one. So Windsor Plaza is just one in the crowd.
As far as West Windsor is concerned, the main thing is that the stores and restaurants provide what the customers want. As only an occasional user, I have mixed opinions.
Since I was used to the type of grocery shopping I could do at the Acme, I had to adjust to McCaffrey’s. I did not become a regular at Mrs Green’s. To continue at Acme, I would have had to go all the way to Lawrence or East Windsor.
But now back to our home turf at Windsor Plaza. At the left end on the front, there’s another tower, this one with six sides and an extra lookout tower at the top.
Each side has a window, but there’s no apparent way for anyone to get up inside so they can actually do any looking. All along the front of the roof there are bay windows, usually located singly, but in one case in a group of three under one roof.
Behind the bay windows, the roof usually joins the main roof that has a ridgeline that parallels the front of the main building. You can’t tell from the ground in front of the building, but the roof above the ridgeline is flat.
It’s hard to realize now, but the latest modifications to the building architecture at Windsor Plaza were carried out during 2012. It was after that date that most of the businesses we are now used to moved in.