Some residents have begun a petition to protest Princeton University’s plans to demolish three large Queen Anne Victorian homes on Prospect Avenue and replace them with a former eating club building that is currently located on the other side of the street.
In recent years, the university has demolished homes on Alexander Street and Olden Street to make way for new buildings, such as the arts and transit neighborhood buildings. Several other new developments and changes in town, including new proposed on-street parking regulations, have caused some residents to raise concerns about the future of the town that is known for its historic charm.
Princeton University officials are seeking minor site plan approvals and variances to move the Court Clubhouse at 91 Prospect Avenue across the street to 110-116 Prospect Avenue. Court Clubhouse was an eating club called the Court Club from 1928 to 1964. It currently serves as the office of the dean for research at the university. The three large homes at 110, 114, and 116 Prospect Avenue would be demolished to make way for the Court Club House. Two of the homes, which were used for housing, are vacant, and the third is being used as an office and computer research lab. The properties bring in more than $84,000 in property tax revenue annually, according to public records. The university is seeking a hardship variance from the local planning board to move Court Clubhouse. The land at 91 Prospect Avenue would be used for part of the university’s environmental science and school of engineering and applied science complex.
Municipal staff members expressed concerns about the project in a memo to the site plan review advisory committee, calling on the university to preserve the three homes and to consider incorporating the building at 91 Prospect Avenue into the proposed environmental science and school of engineering complex,allowing the three large homes to be preserved and renovated for housing in a town with a major housing shortage. Staff members noted also that the Princeton Community Master Plan recommends the designation of the “Club Row Historic District” along Prospect Avenue to preserve and protect the houses that were built as private dining clubs along Prospect Avenue. The former Court Club is part of the proposed district and is listed on the National and New Jersey Registers of Historic Places.
The Princeton Prospect Foundation has put together a 19-page presentation about the proposal. The foundation argues that the university’s plan would destroy three historic houses, insert an incompatible building into the landscape, irreparably harming the historic district and Prospect Avenue streetscape.
Many residents in the neighborhood also oppose the project, saying the changes are not necessary and will ruin the character of the street dubbed by one author as “the most beautiful suburban street in America.”
University officials have argued that the project, part of the school’s East Campus plan, is necessary to make way for the new environmental science and engineering complex in order to attract the best and brightest scholars and researchers to the engineering department.
The site plan review advisory board recommended Thursday that the application move forward. Princeton Historic Preservation Commission will discuss the application at 3 p.m. on Monday, June 7. A planning board hearing on the proposed project is set for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 17. The petition, started two days ago, has been posted on change.org.
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