Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 38
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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Neighbors and Public Comment On Princeton University’s Campus Plan

Dilshanie Perera

The Master Plan Subcommittee of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton, Princeton University representatives, and members of the public met last Wednesday to continue the ongoing discussion regarding the university’s 10-year Campus Plan. Emphasis was placed on the proposed arts and transit neighborhood as well as on the traffic impact of the campus plan on the surrounding community.

Traffic consultant Ted Ehrlich highlighted the need for more information regarding factors that influence traffic and congestion, including an increase in University faculty and staff, changes in land use, relocation of transportation-related facilities, roadway improvements, and the site of the new parking garage.

Mr. Ehrlich said that his goal was to identify the impact the University Master Plan has on the surrounding community and what can be done to mitigate concerns.

Regarding traffic congestion, Princeton University Vice President and Secretary Robert Durkee suggested that the increased demand for parking on campus at the end of the 10-year plan will consist of about 200 people, adding that the university plans to move certain departments and offices off campus to nearby locations in West Windsor, thereby decreasing traffic inflow to town.

Campus parking and its effects on traffic patterns was also discussed at the meeting. The East Campus Garage is designed to be a low-profile structure situated underneath the athletic fields along Western Way, and will result in a net increase of 341 parking spaces, according to Mr. Durkee.

Originally proposed as a multistoried structure, the garage’s design was reworked as a result of neighborhood input. Community residents in the area bordering the eastern section of University property — the eastern campus neighbors — have been meeting with University representatives over the past months to candidly discuss their views of the Campus Plan.

Marty Schneiderman, one of the eastern campus neighbors, said in a telephone interview that more than questions of the attractiveness or proximity of a garage, the neighbors’ major concern had to do with “any increase in traffic on eastern campus” adding that during peak traffic hours the “intersections on Faculty, Washington, and Alexander Roads are terrible, and adding any more cars at all would make the situation worse.”

More cars passing through a densely populated residential neighborhood increase concerns about safety, especially with a number of children living in the area, remarked Mr. Schneiderman.

During the meeting, Mr. Schneiderman urged the Planning Board to proactively consider setting actual limits to university expansion in terms of number of parking spaces, campus extensions, and academic expansion.

Referring to the fact that compromise underlies the discussions between neighbors and university representatives, Mr. Schneiderman would like to see a “win-win-win” situation, where collaborators can “shape the outcome [of the campus plan] in a way that would be beneficial to the immediate neighborhood, the community at large, and the University.”

Echoing Mr. Schneiderman’s sentiment, Borough Council member and architect Kevin Wilkes presented a few alternative proposals for the “arts and transit neighborhood,” which is the arts corridor featured in the campus plan that will add the new Lewis Center for the Arts, a satellite branch of the University Art Museum, and dining amenities to the landscape which currently includes McCarter and Berlind Theaters, the Dinky Station, and Wawa.

The University’s proposal involves moving the Dinky Station from its current location, which is of concern to residents, Mr. Wilkes noted. His four plans leave the station where it is and add residential spaces to the arts and transit neighborhood while changing traffic flow patterns.

Mr. Wilkes underscored that shifting the terms of discourse from “updating the community on the planning process” to “including the community in the planning, so it can be a collaborative effort” is of great importance. Endeavoring to “take the university’s goals and mix in the community’s goals,” Mr. Wilkes is continuing to develop the plans.

A public open house for the proposed arts and transit neighborhood will be held today, September 17, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts. A presentation is scheduled for 7 p.m. and members of the planning team will be available to answer questions throughout the evening.

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