August 24, 2022

Design of Witherspoon Street to Be Discussed at W-J Neighborhood Meeting

By Donald Gilpin

The future of Witherspoon Street between Paul Robeson Place and Franklin Avenue will be the focus of the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Association (WJNA) meeting on Saturday, August 27 at 9:30 a.m. at the Arts Council of Princeton.

Participants will review and discuss options for sidewalk applications and other design elements, as well as projected Phase 2 construction plans and timetables for the redesign of the section of Witherspoon Street which borders Princeton’s 20th Historic District.

“People will have a chance to help decide what Witherspoon from Paul Robeson Place to Franklin Avenue is going to look like in the future,” said WJNA Chair Leighton Newlin. “We’re going to bring to the table people who live in the neighborhood, own houses in the neighborhood, work in the neighborhood, or have any sort of attachment to the neighborhood. They will all have an opportunity to participate in decisions about the future of the neighborhood. It’s a great opportunity.”

He continued, “We want people from all neighborhoods to participate in this meeting. Everyone will fill out paperwork ranking different options and plans, and we plan to arrive at a consensus that we will present to the town’s engineering department.”

The Princeton Engineering Department will be taking its final plans for Phase 2 of Witherspoon Street to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) in early September, according to Deanna Stockton, Princeton deputy administrator for infrastructure and operations. After the NJDOT reviews and authorizes the plans, the town expects to put out bids for construction contracts in November, with the start of construction anticipated for the summer of 2023.

The project is funded by grants and municipal funds, with the prospect of possible federal appropriations, Stockton said. Phase 3 of the Witherspoon Street redesign, from Franklin Avenue to Valley Road, will be starting later this year.

Newlin expressed his appreciation to Jim Purcell of the municipal engineering department, Elizabeth Kim of the Princeton Historic Preservation Commission, and Freda Howard of Freda Howard Interiors LLC for their work in planning for the Witherspoon Street corridor and preparations for Saturday’s meeting.

Howard, he noted, “has brought her design skills to the discussion and has been thinking outside the box in presenting possibilities for that portion of Witherspoon.”

Though construction of the first phase of the Witherspoon Street redesign plan is already underway and officially includes the section of the street from Nassau Street to Green Street, Newlin is hopeful that community input from Saturday’s meeting and subsequent discussions will be implemented in the design plans for the short section of the street between Paul Robeson Place and Green Street.

Also on the table for discussion at Saturday’s meeting will be possibilities for lighting, trees, and railings in the second phase of the Witherspoon Street plan.

“We are gathering to get a clear vision on what the potential and opportunities are,” said Newlin. “it will be a chance for participants to look at various designs and to engage in a discussion of what they like and don’t like.“

Citing the potential for significant future changes in the Witherspoon streetscape, along with the recent installation of historic plaques and Romus Broadway photo collage banners throughout the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, Newlin emphasized the importance of this moment in the evolution of Princeton’s 20th Historic District. “The stars have aligned to create a great umbrella over Witherspoon-Jackson,” he said.