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Tilghman Offers a Look At the Physical Space Of a Tighter Campus

Matthew Hersh

Following up on Princeton University's 2004 announcement abandoning a one-time vision to build a mirror campus on undeveloped lands in West Windsor Township, University President Shirley Tilghman said Monday the school had already implemented plans for what is to be a "pedestrian campus."

Citing planned projects and those already underway, Dr. Tilghman said the impetus for a more condensed campus was the result of a "rethinking" and the desire to increase town/gown relations by making both the University and town more accessible to each other.

Speaking at an event hosted by the University's Student Task Force on Civic Value at the Friend Center for Engineering Education, Dr. Tilghman touched on current projects including the construction of the 500-student Whitman College residence dormitory, slated to open by fall 2007, and located on the site of the former "pagoda" tennis courts.

She also referred to what is now a "very deep hole," at the corner of Washington Road and Ivy Lane in Princeton Borough, in describing what will be the 87,000 square-foot Peter B. Lewis science library designed by architect Frank Gehry, also scheduled for completion by 2007. The celebrated architect designed the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain.

"We think that's going to be a real architectural statement," Dr. Tilghman said. "It's a very exciting project."

In addition to new projects, the University president pointed to the renovation of existing buildings, including Aaron Burr Hall, which is undergoing "a major face-lift" at the southeast corner of Nassau Street and Washington Road.

In keeping with the pedestrian-friendly aim of the campus, Dr. Tilghman unveiled plans for a foot bridge that would extend over Washington Road at the bottom of the Genomics Institute that would help ease an area of intense foot traffic.

"Washington Road as we all know, is a dangerous place for students and faculty to be crossing at a regular basis," Dr. Tilghman said.

"This is a very important project for Princeton, because this is not only a gateway to the campus, but it's also a gateway to the town," she said, adding that it would be more than a "functional footbridge."

Expressing an interest to act on the thinking that is already underway for the area that makes up the University's Engineering School surrounded by Olden Street, Prospect Avenue, Nassau Street, and Murray Place, Dr. Tilghman said the University was looking to improve the existing uses of that area, also known as the "E-Quad."

Princeton Borough Council is currently weighing the University's request to expand the building capacity in that area. The University can build an additional 100,000 square feet in the east half of the E-3 zoning district, as permitted in a 1990 ordinance passed when the University last expanded the E-Quad. However, the University has since shown interest in increasing that capacity to 200,000 square feet.

In its current state, Dr. Tilghman said, the "E-Quad is bursting at the seams."

She said the guiding principle behind the entire plan is to make the virtual geographical center of campus the Frist Campus Center and allow walkers to pace 10 minutes in any direction and arrive at the edge of campus.

"We do not want to become a campus where people are in cars or that the only way they can get around is on shuttle buses," she said.

But the "tension" of embarking on such a plan, Dr. Tilghman added, was to simultaneously preserve the "park-like" character of the campus. She said that it was not the University's aim to "absorb" green space, but to convert existing structures or parking lots into more useful facilities.

"We need to be building in a way that is sensitive, and in the interest of, our neighbors," she said.

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