December 8, 2021

University Breaks Ground for Lake Campus, Development Underway in West Windsor

LAKE CAMPUS: Princeton University held a ceremonial groundbreaking for its Lake Campus development on Tuesday, December 7. Located in West Windsor off Washington Road between Lake Carnegie and Route 1, the complex in its initial phase will include graduate student housing (shown here in a design rendering), parking, athletic facilities, and sustainable infrastructure. (Rendering courtesy of Princeton University)

By Donald Gilpin

Princeton University officially broke ground yesterday, December 7, for the creation of its Lake Campus, the first major development on the University’s property in West Windsor.

Located along Washington Road between Lake Carnegie and Route 1, the initial phase of development will include 379 units of graduate student housing, a five-tier parking garage, athletic facilities, and sustainable infrastructure.

Also included will be the basic infrastructure of roadways, underground utilities, and a central utilities building, along with construction of housing and amenities for post-doc researchers and graduate students, a racket center with a fitness space, a softball stadium, flexible rugby and recreation fields, a new cross-country course, and parking garage.

“A vision for activating our lands south of Lake Carnegie is one of the most intriguing ideas to emerge from our new campus plan and the strategic framework underpinning it,” President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in 2018 as architects and planners were chosen and planning for the Lake Campus progressed. “The Lake Campus will enable Princeton to foster a vibrant community of graduate housing, enhance the quality of athletic facilities, strengthen the region’s innovation ecosystem, and create opportunities for partnerships with the nonprofit, corporate, and government sectors.”

The West Windsor fields on the University’s 110-acre Lake Campus tract, used by runners and soccer and rugby players for many years, were closed earlier this fall and fenced off, as earth movers and other heavy equipment began grading in early November. The entire 400-acre site bounded by Alexander Road, Lake Carnegie, Harrison Street, and Route 1 was acquired by the University more than a century ago.

By 2023 the plan calls for more than 600 postdoctoral researchers and graduate students living on the Lake Campus, a parking garage with more than 600 parking spaces, and a geo-exchange facility to heat and cool the buildings. The athletic facilities are scheduled for completion by 2025.

“Over the next four years, this site will see nearly 1,000 construction jobs,” a University memo stated. “When the first phase is complete at least 30 permanent University jobs will have been created in association with these new facilities.”

Speakers at Tuesday’s 3 p.m. event hosted by University Executive Vice President Treby Williams included Eisgruber, West Windsor Mayor Hemant Marathe, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, Senator Kip Bateman, and Princeton University Vice President for Facilities KyuJung Whang.

The planned Lake Campus is described on the University website as  “a natural, yet distinctive extension of the existing campus,” and follows both Princeton University’s 2026 Campus Plan, as created in 2017, and a General Development Plan approved by the West Windsor Planning Board in 2020.

As noted on the website, the landscape design of the Lake Campus “provides the setting for a unique integration of the larger Princeton University campus with the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park.”

The website emphasizes the integration of the natural beauty of the State Park with the campus experience with buildings situated to most effectively “reduce the overall development footprint and create a walkable campus.”

Sustainability has been a priority throughout the planning process for the Lake Campus, including management of storm water using green infrastructure and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2046. LEED certification for the buildings, Passive House certification for the graduate student housing project, and ParkSmart certification for the garage are among the project goals.

The development will be heated and cooled with thermal energy by way of 150 geo-exchange well bores located beneath the softball stadium, which will heat and cool the new graduate student housing and new racquet center and provide capacity for future construction.

The Lake Campus 379-unit housing complex for graduate students and postdocs will occupy three separate three-story buildings with a total of 329,000 square feet. There will be single-story portions used for a cafe and community center, and a series of portals will connect landscaped courtyards and outdoor areas, which will include a community garden, a play space, a volleyball court, and barbecue areas.