October 6, 2021

Rejecting Design is Not Rejection of Need for New Engineering Complex

To the Editor:

It is disappointing, though not surprising, to read the University’s press release about the importance of the School of Environmental Studies and Engineering and Applied Sciences (ES+SEAS) complex. Those of us who oppose the current design are aware of the key role that engineering plays in solving existing and future problems as well as keeping the University in the forefront of the discipline and attracting the best faculty, graduate students, and researchers. Those who oppose the design do not want to stand in the way of these goals. We are challenging the decision to tear down the Queen Anne buildings (which the University chose not to maintain over time) and move the former Court Clubhouse eating club instead of incorporating it in the design of the new complex. To equate our desire to preserve the historic nature of Prospect Avenue with undermining the goals that the University has for the ES+SEAS is inaccurate.

For me, and others, the University has lost its credibility on this project. (I say this with sadness since I am an alum of the Graduate School as well as a volunteer with several Princeton University programs.) I question whether they do intend to move 91 Prospect Avenue (as opposed to any half-hearted attempt that they will make) and wonder what their intentions are for the former eating club next door (Bobst) that the University also owns. I wonder if this is part of a grand plan for the Engineering School that has not been shared and whether more buildings on Prospect will be at risk in the future.

Tearing down the Queen Anne houses, moving the Court building to the other side of the Avenue, and building one end of the modern SEAS complex facing on to the Avenue was always part of the Master Plan but only if you looked closely and noted that Court was no longer in place. However, the University was silent on this until very late in the process. If it was such good idea design-wise, why not be clear in all the plans and show what that part of the complex will look like on Prospect Street among all the old buildings?

For the University to continue to bring up their efforts in sustainability and historic preservation for other projects does not excuse their lack of same in plans for this complex. They are the clients, and they can go to the architects and ask for changes to address the integrity of Prospect Avenue and community concerns. I ask the Planning Board to vote against the variance even though it may cause 91 Prospect to be torn down because the University will not work with the community. Say no to the University!

Kim Howie
Alexander Street