Princeton Planning Board recommends redevelopment zone designation for some seminary properties

The local planning board voted unanimously on Thursday night to recommend to the Princeton governing body that a portion of Princeton Theological Seminary’s campus be designated as an area in need of redevelopment.

James Constantine and Chris Cosenza of Princeton based LRK Inc., the consultant for the municipality, conducted a study to determine whether the New Jersey redevelopment statute could be applied to the seminary’s Tennant-Roberts campus on Stockton Street and the Erdman Center on Library Place. The statute was used in Princeton when the Spring Street area was redeveloped more than a decade ago.

Constantine and Cosenza concluded that the redevelopment statute is appropriate for the seminary properties, and advised the planning board to recommend to the Princeton Council that they approve the use of the redevelopment statute for the properties.  The consultants discussed the properties in the proposed redevelopment zone Thursday night, describing how many facilities have become outdated. Some of the buildings have heating issues or water damage in the basements when it rains, for example.

Constantine noted that the seminary properties that are part of the proposed redevelopment zone are located between two primary gateways to Princeton. “The gateways are of exceptional historical significance and should be protected,” he said, adding that the designation as an area in need of redevelopment would enable town officials to have more control over what the gateways look like, as well as “the preservation of specific properties beyond what presently is possible.”

During public comment, Edgehill Street resident Elizabeth Brown said she is concerned about the preservation of historic buildings in the area, including three Steadman houses. Seminary representatives have said that they will preserve the historic houses.

Officials say the redevelopment statute gives the municipality more control over  projects than conventional zoning. Officials can give input on density, setbacks, building designs, site layouts, structures to be preserved, areas to be down-zoned, and open space. The redevelopment zone designation also authorizes the municipality to select a qualified developer and enter into a redevelopment agreement with the developer that details the obligations of the developer.

As early as this month, the Princeton Council could review and vote on the recommendations. If the council approves the use of the redevelopment statute for the seminary properties, proposed plans for the sites would then be developed. The Princeton Council would be required to hold public hearings on the redevelopment plans before approving them. The process could take several months.

 

The proposed redevelopment zone on Princeton Theological Seminary’s campus.

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