University Plan For E-Quad Expansion Undergoes Review
Last month, when Borough Council held off introducing an ordinance that would allow additional development rights in the University's Engineering Quadrangle, it was because some Council members felt there were unanswered questions in the original proposal, including the school's use of a jitney, and tree buffers along the Murray Place end of the zone.
Representatives from Princeton University tried to answer some of those questions yesterday when they were sent back to the Planning Board to revise a proposed ordinance in the Borough zoning district, the E-3, on the eastern part of the campus. The E-3 currently allows for 200,000 square feet of development, plus an additional 140,000 square feet for an existing garage. The University is seeking an additional 100,000 square feet of building allowance in the area bounded by Murray Place to the east, Olden Street to the west, with Prospect Avenue and Nassau Street roughly bookending the zone to the south and north, respectively.
But when Borough Council held off introducing an ordinance last month that would allow the additional expansion rights, the University needed to appear before the Regional Planning Board's Zoning Amendment Review Committee (ZARC) yesterday to address the jitney and tree buffer issues.
At the time of Council's deferral to ZARC, Princeton Borough Mayor Joe O'Neill said that instead of Council continuing their application to the zoning board, the entire E-3 should be re-examined.
The University's decision to scrap plans to build a so-called mirror campus on lands across the canal in West Windsor also prompted Council to encourage a retooling of the entire zone. The University now aims to establish "academic neighborhoods" with the Frist Campus Center as the school's focal point and a jitney to transport students from one part of campus to another. In addition to the extra 100,000 square feet of developable space, the proposed zoning also seeks to create a "no-build" buffer zone of 150 feet west of Murray Place; and to require the use of a jitney transportation system to shuttle employees and students to the Engineering School. Murray Place residents have long voiced opposition to additional building for fear of increased activity in the neighborhood, which lies in the Borough's R-2 residential zone.
Under the newest proposals put forth Tuesday, one parking space for each 1.25 employees will be provided either within the E-3 or accessed to by the University's shuttle system, P-Rides. If that jitney were to discontinue operation, parking spaces would be required within the educational zone. Additionally, the efficacy of the shuttle system will be filed annually with a transportation management consulting organization. The same mandates apply for each 2.5 students.
The building height restrictions would remain as they are now, with buildings closest to Murray Place having a height not to exceed 39 feet. As it currently stands, the zone comprises 137,472 square feet for the garage and 485,844 square feet for other existing buildings. If the University is successful in getting an ordinance passed for increased building area, officials say the aim would be to demolish two buildings in the E-3: the G-Wing building and Von Neumann a total of 56,283 square feet. The University has yet to put forth specific Engineering School expansion plans for the E-3.
However, it was a developmental proposal put forth about a year ago that led the University to seek expansion in the E-3. The University had sought to put offices of the Operations, Research, and Financial Engineering Department outside of the E-3 at the corner of Olden and William streets on the site of two dilapidated former fraternity houses.
"As we talked about that project, a number of people came forward and said that's not really the best idea'," Robert Durkee, the University's vice president and secretary, said Tuesday. One of those detractors was Marvin Reed, who, as Borough Council president in 1990, largely oversaw the creation of the initial E-3. The University was encouraged to keep development on campus in line with its new "smart growth" development plan and look to expand the E-3, rather than expand into residential areas, in this case, to the property occupied by the old fraternity houses, which are unused.
The ordinance is slated for review by the full Planning Board on July 14, where it will be referred back to Borough Council for examination. If an ordinance is introduced by Council, the Planning Board would have to revisit it for briefing.