August 25, 2021

Princeton University Construction Projects “Transform” Campus

By Donald Gilpin

There have been periods during the past 18 months of the pandemic when the Princeton University campus — from the spires of the graduate college through the central campus to the edges of Harrison Street and the banks of Lake Carnegie — has seemed unusually quiet. But the University has been anything but dormant.

Moving ahead on its 2026 Campus Plan, developed and initiated over the past five years with “the most ambitious and comprehensive planning process” in its history, Princeton University has been progressing rapidly on its “transformative journey” towards its “mission-centered vision for the campus.”

Last week’s special Princeton University Weekly Bulletin noted “tremendous progress campus-wide,” with several projects completed over the last 18 months, much new construction underway on campus, and construction that will be starting in the coming months. The University declined to discuss costs of its massive array of construction projects.

Most striking so far, under the heading of “Renewal of Central Campus,” are the new residential colleges 7 and 8, slated for completion in the summer of 2022, and the new Princeton University Art Museum, scheduled to open in the fall of 2024.

The residential colleges, under construction during the past year adjacent to each other  in the southeastern portion of the central campus south of Poe Field, are built to each potentially house an additional 500 undergraduates and to advance “one of Princeton’s highest strategic priorities” — expanding the undergraduate population by about 10 percent.

For more than 32 years, Princeton has housed all freshmen and sophomores in residential colleges, of which there are now six, soon to be eight.

The new Art Museum, with construction underway this summer, will roughly double its current space, and will also encompass the Department of Art and Archaeology and Marquand Library. The Weekly Bulletin states that “the new buildings will enable the Museum to better utilize and grow its existing collections, mount exhibitions, offer a new range of social spaces, and enhance the ties that link the Museum to its nearest academic partners and other key academic units.”

As an important component of the “re-imagined east campus,” the East Parking Garage, with construction underway this summer and scheduled for completion by fall of 2022, will be located near the intersection of Fitzrandolph Road and Faculty Road and will include about 1,560 parking spaces and 32 car charging stations.   

Constructed on what is now parking Lot 21, the new parking garage will accommodate parking from Lot 21 and nearby parking lots along Ivy Lane/Western Way that are to be removed for construction of the planned Environmental Studies and the School of Engineering and Applied Science complex (ES + SEAS).

Across the street from the new parking garage will be the new thermally-integrated geo-exchange-resource building (T.I.G.E.R.), housing heat pumps and electrical equipment necessary to expand the University’s geo-exchange heating and cooling systems. Two thermal energy storage tanks will be located near the T.I.G.E.R. building to store the hot and chilled water. The building will be connected to the campus by a new underground distribution system.

The construction of the huge ES + SEAS complex, which has recently been an issue of local controversy because of the encroachment of part of the project on Prospect Avenue, is currently on hold pending anticipated action next month by the Princeton Planning Board. “We look forward to continuing the approvals process with the Planning Board this fall and plan to start construction as soon as approvals are secured,” said Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss.

The transformation of the West Windsor Lake Campus across Lake Carnegie, which has been the primary home to Campus Recreation Sport Clubs, including men’s and women’s rugby, is already underway with the installation of a temporary rugby field. Lake Campus will be the new home to many athletic facilities, more graduate student housing, a new parking garage, and a thermally integrated geo-exchange resource central utility building (TIGER-CUB), which will provide thermal energy for buildings at the Lake Campus.

Among the construction milestones whose completion is being celebrated this summer at Princeton University are a makeover of the 113-year-old McCosh lecture hall; the renovation of 36 University Place, redesigned as a new admission assembly area for prospective students and tours; and renovation of Robertson Hall at the Princeton School for Public and International Affairs; as well as completion of a campus electrical infrastructure upgrade project and an elevator and lighting upgrade for Nassau Hall.

Advancing the University towards its goal of carbon neutrality by 2046 are two major initiatives: the solar expansion project, due to be completed by the end of this summer, and the University’s increasing use of geo-exchange technology.

The solar expansion, which will more than triple the University’s current solar voltaic generating capacity, is using two-sided solar panels, many installed in existing parking lots. The ongoing geo-exchange projects, with enough capacity to serve the entire campus, will enable Princeton to phase out nonrenewable energy sources, including natural gas burned to produce steam heat.