June 2, 2021

Save Historic Prospect Avenue From Damaging Development Plan

To the Editor:

Princeton University’s application for a variance from zoning regulations for 1) moving the historic Court Clubhouse at 91 Prospect Avenue out of the National Register Princeton Historic District; 2) demolishing three graceful Victorian-era houses at 110, 114, and 116 Prospect; and 3) constructing a new pavilion at 91 Prospect that will be incompatible with the Historic District should be denied by the Historic Preservation Commission at its hearing at 3 p.m. on June 7 and by the Planning Board at its hearing at 7:30 p.m. on June 17.

All three components of the University’s proposed development on Prospect Avenue violate National Park Service policy for historic districts and buildings, and will irrevocably damage the iconic streetscape of 15 historic eating clubs and three Victorian houses that is unique to Princeton. The University’s rationale for doing this? — to attract and retain top faculty. Many of those faculty will no doubt be appalled by the University’s overreach on Prospect. Everyone in town admires the University and wants it to be as successful as possible, but at the expense of town and campus history? Its proposed plan for needless destruction and intrusion on Princeton’s most distinctive street is a bridge too far, and yet another damaging encroachment into a residential neighborhood.

The University cannot justify this completely unnecessary damage and encroachment. It has a vacant lot at 111 Prospect where it could erect a pavilion compatible with the historic streetscape, and it has a 2-acre vacant section of its proposed 660,000-square-foot development on Western Way and Ivy Lane where it could erect any type of building design it wants. It could also adjust the layout of the development to simply keep Prospect Avenue intact, which it should have done in the first place.

Information on the proposed development and its potential damage is available at change.org/saveprospect.

If you feel strongly about preserving Princeton’s unique history and architectural heritage, please sign the petition at the above website, speak up to our elected officials, and attend the upcoming Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Board meetings and voice your opposition to granting the University a zoning variance that will enable the destruction of historic buildings and harmful development, and set a precedent for more of the same on Prospect Avenue and other historic streets.

Once the application is denied, we ask the University to work with the community and elected officials to develop a plan that will achieve its functional aspirations while also preserving Prospect Avenue and Princeton history.

Clifford Zink
Aiken Avenue