Area in need of redevelopment designation should be rescinded for Princeton Seminary properties on Stockton Street
To the Editor:
On March 28, my neighbors and I submitted a request to the Princeton mayor and council to rescind the “area in need of redevelopment” [ANR] designation for the ten non-contiguous properties owned by Princeton Theological Seminary [PTS] on the Tennent-Roberts-Whiteley Campus.
This designation process for these properties began nearly four years ago as part of an effort to meet the strategic priorities of PTS. As neighbors, we entered a process hopeful that there would be a win-win-win outcome for the institution, the neighbors, and the town. We were led to believe there would be improved pathways and lighting, traffic mitigation, improved stormwater management, and dedicated open space. However, no redevelopment plan was ever developed or approved, and after a number of community meetings, PTS paused the process and ultimately announced that their priorities had changed. Subsequently, we learned that PTS has a contract buyer, a private developer, for five of the ten properties. All efforts to begin a dialogue with the private developer have been rebuffed.
Recently, PTS announced that Dr. Craig Barnes, President of PTS, would be stepping down next year. Shane Berg, the former Executive Vice President of PTS and our primary point of contact during our preliminary discussions with PTS, has left the organization. Planning Board Chair Wanda Gunning has stepped down, and the Chair of this ANR Ad Hoc Committee, Gail Ullman, also retired. Of the elected officials who held office when the ANR designation was adopted, former Mayor Lempert, and former Council members Crumiller, Howard, Liverman, and Williamson all chose not to run for re-election.
This ANR designation was born out of an institutional purpose, not a public purpose. We hoped that by working together, we could create a win for everyone, but it didn’t materialize. Now, facing a nearly complete turnover in personnel on all sides but the neighborhood, we have lost confidence that the initial promises of an open, transparent process with ample neighborhood and community input will be met. We feel that out of consideration for the neighbors and in the interest of all of Princeton, this ANR designation should be rescinded.
If the time comes when the players are interested in coming to the table in good faith, we will be willing to re-engage with the new parties in a spirit of cooperation.