Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 1
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
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District Seeks Municipal Input on Valley Road

Linda Arntzenius

Progress has been made toward the future of the Princeton Regional Schools’ Valley Road Administrative Building, described one member of the Board of Education has described as an “extremely expensive white elephant,” an “albatross,” and “a burden on the Princeton taxpayer.”

While the full report from KSS Architects, LLP — the Witherspoon Street firm contracted by the board in June to study the site’s current and future use — has not yet been made public, a resolution adopted by the board at its December meeting reveals some of the findings.

The excessive cost of renovating the oldest parts of the building, facing Witherspoon Street, have led to the conclusion that demolition as well as rehabilitation will be part of its future.

In June, the board sought to consider low-cost improvements and ways to generate revenue from areas within the building not used by the district.

December’s resolution reads: “The Board of Education supports the municipal bodies’ study for further investigation into the potential uses of the portion of the Valley Road site which faces Witherspoon, made possible by the demolition of the Witherspoon Street building and use of the SOC land. The Board of Education encourages the Township and Borough governing bodies to recommend options of potential uses of the Valley Road property that have no or limited negative impact on the school district budget and that are aligned with the educational mission of the district and the needs of the district’s students including education, recreation and counseling.”

The resolution encourages both municipal “governing bodies to recommend options of potential uses of the Valley Road property” and calls for the demolition of the oldest part of the building that faces Witherspoon Street — the section that is home to the the Township’s affordable housing office and the Borough- and Township-sponsored Corner House.

Citing the Borough- and Township-owned Sewer Operating Commission property, the resolution states the purpose of redevelopment as minimizing the district’s “liabilities and operating costs” while meeting the “widely acknowledged community needs that the School Board, Township and Borough leaders have set goals to address.”

After meeting with municipal officials in December to discuss the potential collaboration, board member Alan Hegedus, who chairs the facilities committee, reported that the district will rehabilitate a third of the property, and will retain its athletic fields at the site.

The board is currently soliciting input from the municipalities about the best way to make use of the property and the site and building, parts of which date to the turn of the 20th century.

Besides district offices and Corner House, 25 Valley Road also houses Princeton Community Television and the township’s affordable housing office, among others.

One possibility is the relocation of the district’s bus parking to Sewer Operating Committee (SOC) lands, which both municipalities are planning to redevelop. Suggestions for future use by the Recreation Department in the form of a senior center or indoor recreation facility have also been made.

Options for the rest of the building include retaining as many of the existing functions as possible, possibily relocating Corner House upstairs, and moving the affordable housing office across the street into the municipal complex.

Prior to the 2002 move of the Township offices to their current KSS-designed location, the municipal offices were based in the Valley Road building.

The next public meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for Tuesday, January 22, at 8 p.m. in the cafeteria at John Witherspoon Middle School.

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