Back to the Drawing Board on Historic Designation for Dinky Station

Residents withdrew an application last night seeking historic site designation for the Dinky station after members of the Borough’s Historic Preservation Review Committee said the application is incomplete.

Bruce Afran, the lawyer for Anne Neumann and a few other residents who are seeking the designation, said residents would resubmit a revised application at a later date. Contrary to some press reports, the group Save the Dinky is not one of the applicants.

Residents who are seeking the historic designation argued that the Dinky buildings are still in excellent condition, and that the building style is representative of the gothic architecture of the campus. The station  is also an important part of local history, they said, and is already on both the state and national registers of historic places.

While many committee members agreed that  the Dinky station meets the criteria for historic designation, they said the application submitted by Neumann lacked an updated, detailed historic report and should also include a current site plan.

“I’m sorry, but the application needs to be amped up a bit,” said committee member Cecelia Tazelaar.

Tazelaar, who expressed concerns about the “general atmosphere of litigation” lately in Princeton regarding historic designations and projects, apologized because she said she meant to spend more time with Neumann going over what Neumann needed to do to prepare her application. Officials  said there was too much extraneous information in the report.

“I’m sorry, but so much more needs to be done int he report,” Tazelaar said. “The application would have benefited from the help of a paid consultant…I’d still like to see this happen. I think there should be a historic designation (of the station).”

But committee member Jeanne Perantoni questioned whether the Dinky station meets the criteria for historic designation. The station dates back to 1865 and was moved from  Blair Arch to its current location in 1917.

Richard Goldman, the lawyer for the university, said under an agreement with NJ Transit, train service will stop at the existing location and a new station will be located 460 feet south of the existing station. Under the agreement, the easement NJ Transit now has will disappear five years after the station move. The university plans to turn the north building that is now a waiting room into a cafe, and the south building will become a restaurant.

Architect Michael Mills, a consultant for the university who is based at the Princeton Forrestal campus, argued that the application was not complete and that the information used for it, based on a  1981 report, was outdated. But when questioned by Afran, he acknowledged the station is worthy of consideration for historic designation. Afran questioned how much has changed in the station area since the 1981 report, except for the addition of the Wawa.

The historic designation is one more fight in the battle to save the Dinky station, which is part of the university’s $300 million arts and transit project. Some residents oppose the station move and say ridership will decrease if the station is moved. The Princeton Regional Planning Board will review plans for the arts and transit neighborhood tonight at  a 7:30 public meeting in the Princeton Township Municipal Building on Witherspoon Street.