Princeton University Considering Options for Expansion in West Windsor and at Springdale

The Springdale Golf course could be developed by Princeton University after the lease is up in about 10 years.

A presentation to town officials by representatives from Princeton University Monday night provided few concrete details about the school’s expansion plans, which are still being developed, but one thing was clear: In the 2026 campus plan, a much greater emphasis is being placed on the development of land the school owns surrounding the main campus and in neighboring municipalities.

The development of the Springdale Golf Course and land in West Windsor are on the table, contrary to reports in some media outlets in in June. Springdale’s lease with the university expires in about 10 years.

“Springdale lands potentially play a role in the university’s future  given their significant proximity to the central campus, the new Lewis Center for the Arts, and the graduate college,” said Cyndi Rottenburg-Walker, head consultant for the school’s 2026 campus plan.

The school could restore the Springdale Creek and develop the land in such a way that it still feels like a park, Rottenburg-Walker said. Primary uses for the land would be for academic purposes, but there would also probably be some role for residential colleges for undergraduate or graduate students, she said. The school would want any new construction to feel like the rest of the campus, with its distinct sense of place, she said.

“We’ve heard a lot about the isolation of the graduate college,” she said. “One of the sensible options might be to look at the continuity of residential development at the top part of the site, based on a strong system of open spaces if it was to change. The restoration of the creek is a fundamental component of that.”

The school’s land in West Windsor could be used for housing and other uses, and the school is considering building a remote parking lot where students and staff could take a shuttle to the main campus or bike. Plans for a parking garage on the eastern portion of the school’s campus in downtown Princeton have been scrapped, University Vice President Robert Durkee said.

The Butler Tract, the Alexander Street corridor, and West Windsor are likely locations for housing over the next decade or two. The time frame could be shorter for some projects. School officials would want a West Windsor development to be considered a campus community the same way lands in Princeton are considered, Rottenburg-Walker said.

Development on Alexander Street and in West Windsor would include some commercial components to serve students and staff members.

Durkee said it is no secret the school owns most of the land along Alexander Street now. He said Alexander could be developed in an attractive way as a mixed use area that includes retail spaces, commercial spaces and residential uses.

The Butler Tract would just include housing, he said.

What kind of housing and when is uncertain,” Durkee said. “It’s an attractive location for faculty and employee housing, but it could also be used for graduate and post-doc housing.”

Princeton University Architect Ron McCoy added that graduate housing does not need to be big and bulky. Princeton houses about 70 percent of its graduate students. The university wants to build more graduate housing, but did not say how much or what percentage of graduate students it hopes to house.

School officials would like to reduce the amount of parking on campus, and said the university will use a “carrots and sticks” approach to reduce the number of people coming to campus by car. Many other Ivy League schools charge for parking. School representatives said Princeton is ranked first among peer Ivy League institutions in the number of free parking spaces offered. Princeton’s goal is to become more in line with its peers and charge to reduce the incentive to have a car. School officials want to make the campus a more pedestrian and cycling-friendly environment. The remote parking lot could be on one side of the lake, Durkee said, with a bike bridge over that lake so people could cycle to the main campus from there.

The undergraduate class at the school will be increased by 10 percent over the next decade. It is unclear how much the undergraduate population will expand beyond that time frame. School officials also do not know how much the graduate student population and faculty will expand.

“We attract some of the best students in the world, increasingly from range of socioeconomic backgrounds. They learn from each other by being a residential community,” Durkee said. “We never want to become so large that we lose the core definition of who we are. We are very pleased in the growth of the past decade. The campus feels as intimate as before it expanded. We are confident we can do it again. We might be able to do more. We’ll see how the next increment goes.”

A new residential college will be built in the next 10 years. Durkee said the school needs to think about how it might expand after that in case another residential college is needed later.

“At the same time, the faculty does grow over time. New fields emerge,” he said. “There has been faculty growth…This is one reason why we are thinking more than in the past about how use West Windsor lands. As we do grow somewhat, how fits into overall picture has become very important.”

The university anticipates expanding the School of Engineering and Applied Science  and the Environmental Institute. The engineering quad could possibly be relocated, and replaced by another set of academic uses or administrative uses.

The 2026 campus plan is expected to be completed by the summer of 2017.

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