June 2, 2021

Asking University to Reconsider New East Campus Design Proposal

To the Editor:

Last Wednesday, I tuned into a neighborhood meeting given by the University about their new East Campus plan, a large project extending north and east of the football stadium. I had heard a little about it, but thought it mostly impacted a number of parking lots and the Ferris Thompson apartments.

After the presentation, though, I had a hard time sleeping. I learned that this project is so vast (nearly 15 acres!) that it would sprawl even up to Prospect Avenue — and incredibly, that the University is planning to demolish three Victorian-era houses I’d always found delightful, and which have added charm and warmth to the Prospect neighborhood for so many years.

What’s more, they are planning to move one of the beautiful Eating Club manors from its current location next to all the others, and sandwich it between an apartment building and a parking garage.

In its place, I learned, the University is proposing to add a discordant, modern Engineering complex with 250’ of exposure along the length of Prospect, shattering the visual continuity and forever altering the feeling and atmosphere of this grand, historic avenue.

I couldn’t understand it. It just made no sense. I was angry, and sad, and upset. Why would they do this?

Thinking more about it, I realized that, regrettably, this kind of thing has become a trend in recent years around our town. The University can construct new buildings, but they don’t need to tear down so many older or historic ones. With all their impressive resources and brilliance, they can — and should — find a way to work with (or around) more of the historic structures which have been gracing our streets for generations.

Not everything that is new is better. And lately, it seems there is a new teardown at every corner. So here, in this massive project, we have even more teardowns — and ones that aren’t necessary by a long shot.

In Princeton, especially, many of us prefer or enjoy the character that older buildings bring and work hard to maintain and improve their historical fabric and context. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that our town would not be as famous as it is, nor attract so many visitors, without protection and preservation of our architectural heritage.

The headline of an April 21 feature story in the New York Times read, “Princeton, N.J.: Historic Homes and Cultural Riches.” So, let’s not kill the golden goose.

If you feel the same way, or are concerned about similar issues, then please sign the community petition (and learn more ways to help) at: change.org/saveprospect.

We are asking the University to reconsider the East Campus design, which is fortunately still in the conceptual stages. Please don’t irreparably mar Prospect Avenue, a true gem which is priceless and cannot be replaced.

James Bash
South Harrison Street