January 27, 2021

Princeton Seminary Sells Tennent Roberts Campus To Local Developer

By Anne Levin

Princeton Theological Seminary is under contract to sell its Tennent Roberts campus to Princeton-based development firm Herring Properties. Founder James Herring said that while plans are still in the early stages, he is leaning toward the construction of apartments, or possibly condominiums, the majority of which would be market rate but a percentage of which would be affordable housing.

The Seminary spent more than a year considering a project to build new student apartments on the campus. After extensive planning, proposals, and meetings with neighborhood residents, the school announced in November 2019 that it would not proceed with the project. As part of the plan, the campus was designated a redevelopment zone, which proponents said provides for more control over design specifics than the traditional zoning process. But during neighborhood meetings, there was pushback from some residents who were concerned about density and increased traffic.

“When the Seminary decided to no longer seek construction of new student apartments on its Tennent Roberts campus last fall, we then reassessed our campus master plan and made adjustments in keeping with the priorities and vision for our community,” said Executive Vice President Shane A. Berg in a statement. “The Seminary will continue to house students on its main campus in Princeton and at the Charlotte Rachel Wilson apartments in West Windsor for the foreseeable future, as well as lease and sell excess real estate. The Tennent Roberts complex is under contract with Herring Properties, a potential project in the very early planning stages. The Seminary’s focus is on continued efforts to restore and renew other buildings on our main campus to enhance our life together and foster spaces where a sense of community can flourish.”

An architect has yet to be selected for the project. “We want to build something that is very appropriate for the neighborhood, the site, and for the town,” Herring said on Monday. “I grew up here, my businesses are here. I’m on the board of McCarter Theatre and am very involved in the community. I certainly will build something I can be proud of. The Seminary had a very challenging time coming up with an open form design, and we’re going to spend our time coming up with something really good.”

The site’s designation as an area in need of redevelopment “allows us a great ability to design a project that takes advantage of all its surroundings,” Herring added in an email, mentioning open spaces, trees, and an attractive entrance on Route 206. He also listed “a community walkability within Princeton Town Center and to public transportation, an affordable apartment component that would be the first ever approved in the western side of Princeton, large tax revenue from a site that has never been on the tax rolls, and no bonds or land subsidies from Princeton municipality, state, or any other agency.”

Herring Properties owns several units in Princeton as well as office buildings and warehouses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Herring founded the company, which is based at 281 Witherspoon Street, in 2000.

“We are in the process of putting the team together for this project,” Herring said. “Then, we will start evaluating the layout of the site, trees, and the roadway, and work within that to start to lay out the concept designs for the project. We are interested in building something that will contribute to the gateway into Princeton. Done well, with good open spaces, it will be a terrific site.”