August 10, 2022

Momo Brothers Should Consider Design Change for New Building on Witherspoon

To the Editor:

I was dismayed to read about the Momo brothers’ plan to raze two historic buildings on Witherspoon Street and construct instead the modern building illustrated in Town Topics [July 27, page 1]. Although the present historic buildings may be beyond repair, do we really want to replace them with a vanilla-looking structure more in keeping with an urban setting?

What makes Princeton so delightful is its visual texture, walkable scale, and welcoming vibe. The Momos’ present restaurants have contributed to this look and feel by offering spaces that welcome and embrace. This seems their brand. Mediterra’s facade, for example, fits into our historic square yet has both a modern as well as earthy feel. Although also more than two stories, its mixed use design incorporates a mixture of materials, setbacks, awnings, balconies, and greenery that provide a human scale.

Witherspoon Street, itself, faces a visual identity crisis now that its beautiful trees have been chopped down. A historic plaque marking “what was” won’t suffice if the street’s sense of place is erased. Traditional or modern buildings can work if they are unique, imaginative, and help make the street seem “alive” again.

Not because they have to, but because they want to —  the Momo brothers should consider creating a more inviting building that’s just as flavorful, textured, and delicious as the food they serve.

Toby Israel, Ph.D.
Walnut Lane

The writer is the author of Some Place Like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Places.