September 22, 2021

PU, Prospect Avenue’s Streetscape, And Housing That Could Be Affordable

To the Editor:

While Princeton University does many wonderful things, listening to and engaging with the Town’s residents is not one of them. To date over 1,600 residents and Princeton alumni — mostly residents — have signed a petition requesting that the University not tear down three perfectly usable Victorian homes, and move the stately former Court (eating) Club across Prospect Avenue to the space they now occupy. See:

Back in June Princeton Future, the highly respected town planning organization, offered to be a neutral mediator between the University and a core group of those who oppose this plan. Unfortunately the University refused to engage.

Now injury has been added to insult when just last week the University sent out a PR piece on its plan to build its new Environmental Studies (ES) and School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) campus, including its entrance right on Prospect Avenue — the small (1-2 percent) portion so many oppose and which could easily be modified. While most of their plan is laudable, they had the hubris to state in the very first paragraph “enhancing the public experience of the surrounding neighborhood.” Really? How tone deaf can they be?

Introducing a modern glass and steel building right on Prospect Avenue at the end of the row of eating clubs, and right next to the residences that continue from there, will forever destroy its streetscape that so many in town love.

Tearing down the three Victorian homes that could provide badly needed housing that’s affordable (eight-nine units) follows the University’s pattern on Alexander Road. Right now three more homes there adjacent to McCarter Theatre have been left to rot. Soon we’ll hear, “it’s just not worth saving them.” Real people lived there up until 10 years ago!

Please let our Planning Board know your views tomorrow evening (September 23), when they will decide whether to approve the University’s applications impacting historic Prospect Avenue’s streetscape, and a piece of our town’s scarce housing stock that could be made affordable. The first topic on the agenda is the University’s variance request to tear down the three homes and move Court Club across the street. Immediately following that is their request to build the ES+SEAS complex as planned — including the entrance right on Prospect Avenue.

The public meeting begins at 7 p.m. on Zoom and can be joined at online.

John Heilner
Princeton Class of 1963
Howe Circle