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Princeton U. Selects Architect for New Train Station, Modifies Arts and Transit Plans

Princeton University is preparing to submit plans to the Regional Planning Board of Princeton for its $300 million arts and transit neighborhood by this spring. Those plans have been modified in recent weeks, according to University officials.

The University has selected Rick Joy, a leading American architect with experience designing train stations, as the architect to design the new Dinky station building and Wawa, and renovate the existing station buildings for use as a restaurant and café.

Princeton Borough and Princeton Township approved zoning changes for the University project to move forward late last year. The zoning changes have been challenged by residents in a lawsuit.

Plans for construction of the new station and the renovation of the existing station buildings will be included in the University’s submission to the Planning Board.

Princeton University Vice President and Secretary Robert Durkee sent a letter to the planning board today updating the board on recent project developments.

“In recent weeks we have made further adjustments to accommodate specific requirements in the new zoning ordinances and to reflect both suggestions from members of the community and the more detailed design that can be done now that zoning is in place to allow us to proceed with the project,” Durkee wrote. “All of the basic elements of the plan remain: the roadway improvements, including the roundabout at Alexander and University Place; the new train station incorporating the Wawa and the associated transit plaza and parking; the driveway into the Lot 7 garage; the conversion of the existing station buildings into a restaurant and café; extensive landscaping; and, of course, the first phase arts buildings and public plaza designed by Stephen Holl.”

Durkee said the location and orientation of the Stephen Holl buildings have both been shifted a bit to the south and the buildings themselves have been repositioned on the site.

“These modifications allow us to meet zoning requirements, but they also respond to some community concerns about whether the site will be sufficiently open and accessible to members of the community,” he said. “The relocation and reorientation also respond to community interest in making sure that the site can accommodate possible future mass transit options by introducing greater flexibility in the area near the roundabout north of the first-phase academic buildings.”

Durkee said the modified design also improves walking paths from Forbes College to the campus, increasing the likelihood that the paths will be utilized. The change will also provide a greater sense of connectedness between the first-phase arts buildings and the transit area by increasing the orientation of the buildings toward the transit plaza and the station building, he said. Durkee also said the changes “significantly improves traffic patterns and short-term parking options in the transit plaza” and reserves the possibility of a later-phase building at some point in the future on the site between the Stephen Holl buildings and University Place.

Joy, the Tucson, Ariz. based architect chosen to design the new train station, will collaborate with Steven Holl Architects regarding the design of the project’s public plaza spaces.

“Rick was selected for his ability to understand the significance of a place and its landscape and for his focus on the way the public experiences architectural space. He has an international reputation for creating timeless architectural form and space with a beautiful sense of material and craft,” said University Architect Ronald McCoy in a university news story about the selection of Joy. “We are confident he will be able to create a meaningful civic place, one that will have a rich interaction with the Steven Holl design for the Lewis Center for the Arts.”

Joy, the recipient of the 2002 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture and the 2004 National Design Award, has served as a visiting professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Rice University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Arizona.

The proposed Arts and Transit area on the western edge of the campus, the future home of the new Lewis Center for the Arts, will include teaching, rehearsal, performance and administrative spaces for drama, music and dance. Future phases could include an experimental media studio and a performance hall. Combined with other facilities on the University campus and in the community, University officials say the neighborhood is expected to become a vibrant cultural destination for the region.

The main sticking point of the project for some residents is the plan to move the Dinky train station about 460 feet south of its existing location. Some residents and the group Save the Dinky have filed a lawsuit challenging the proposed station move.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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