Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 14
 
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
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PU Development to Take Center Stage in Planning Board Talks

Matthew Hersh

Last month, when the Regional Planning Board of Princeton began discussing regular state-mandated revisions to the Community Master Plan, the discussion turned quickly to the future physical development of Princeton University — the largest taxpayer in the Princetons, as well as a major landholder in both towns.

In the midst of a two-year campus planning effort, the University is set to be a significant player in development in the coming years. As a result, judging from recent hearings by the Planning Board's Master Plan Subcommittee, planners have reason to be focused on determining what the school's intentions are.

According to Robert Durkee, University vice president and secretary, Thursday's meeting, "will give us a chance to return to some of the questions people have asked, and talk about how the Princeton Community Master Plan and the University's campus plan might align as we go forward."

While much of the University's future planning is, like the Princeton Master Plan, largely philosophical, the school has made clear that it intends to develop inward, using a decidedly smart-growth approach, rather than the previously conceived notion of developing vacant University lands in West Windsor.

The number one point of interest in a recent open house held by the University on campus-wide changes was the University's proposed arts neighborhood along University Place and Alexander Street Mr. Durkee said. "Far and away, the area that got the most comments was the arts neighborhood, and we received many questions on how this would effect circulation, parking, and the Dinky," Mr. Durkee said. The arts neighborhood would, at least according to early concepts, realign University Place to merge with Alexander Street further to the south, filling in the area with arts neighborhood infrastructure and facilities.

While saying that he hopes to revisit some of the elements of the complete campus plan, looking at the campus from all sides, Mr. Durkee suggested that the University also anticipates fielding some questions regarding a proposed revitalization of the Alexander Street gateway to Princeton, starting roughly just north of Lawrence Drive.

And while specific site plan details are not yet available, members of the Master Plan Subcommittee, with an October deadline to submit final documental changes to the state, have indicated that this revision process will be focused on conceptual issues, rather than on drawing up blueprints for anticipated development.

"If you have a basic idea of what some of the uses might be, and what the layout of a particular area might be, that creates a good starting point," Mr. Durkee said.

"It is important not to take the discussion too specifically, and it's important to remember that when the day comes when we do develop, things may not look exactly the way we sketched it in broad strokes." Though Mr. Durkee added that the Planning Board would be left with a "reasonable idea of what to expect."

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The Regional Planning Board of Princeton will hold a discussion session on Princeton University's campus plan, as it relates to the Princeton Community Master Plan, this Thursday, April 5, at 7:30 p.m. at Township Hall.

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