The proposed Master Plan has many good components, but given Princeton’s unique historic character, the preservation provisions are inadequate and in some places confusing and inaccurate. These provisions should be adjusted to appropriately balance the proposed new development in the Master Plan with good stewardship of our historic resources.
On page 10, Outreach Section 1.2 has the heading “Historic preservation is important and should be easier.” Easier reads pejoratively, as if there is something wrong with preservation here, and it contradicts findings in the Plan’s community survey wherein a total of 54% of respondents agreed that preservation efforts “should be expanded” or “strike the right balance between preservation and development.” Only 14.5% thought that preservation is a “hindrance to growth and development.” An appropriate vision for Princeton’s historic resources in the Master Plan is “Historic preservation is important and should be improved.”
On Page 19, Land Use Goals Section 1.8 only mentions preservation under Goal 3: “Remove Barriers to increased residential density.” Instead, just as the protection of environmental resources is itemized in Goal 6: “Protect and restore environmentally sensitive features and natural resources,” preservation should be specifically listed in an additional Goal 10: “Protect and preserve historic sites and districts by ensuring that new development follows local and national preservation guidelines for new construction.”
On Page 25, Historic Preservation Goals Section 1.8, and on page 208 Historic Preservation Recommendations Section 8.7, should both have the additional provision “Adopt preservation design guidelines following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties to enhance review of proposed alterations and new construction at historic sites and in historic districts.” The Secretary’s Standards are the common benchmark in preservation, and Princeton should follow these as is typical in historic towns throughout New Jersey and elsewhere.
On Page 46, Land Use Recommendation No. 15 should include historic preservation and urban design in the proposed: “Design Element of the Master Plan to shape development to express Princeton’s priorities. Include guidance related to architecture, landscape architecture, (add) historic preservation, (add) urban design, and other elements of design.” Both of these were absent in recent zoning but need to be considered going forward.
On Page 138, Community Facilities, Section 5.6 Historic Sites lists 17 individually designated sites on the N.J. and National Registers, but to avoid confusion that these are Princeton’s only designated historic resources, the introductory paragraph should state: “Historic Sites refers to individual properties, and the following sites are individually listed on the State National Registers of Historic Places. Historic Districts contain multiple properties, and Historic Preservation Section 8 lists 11 Historic Districts on the State and National Registers and 21 locally-designated Historic Districts.”
On page 192, the photograph of the former Baker Street should be replaced, as it shows historic buildings that were demolished for the construction of Palmer Square, and therefore does not represent preservation in Princeton.
On Page 194, Historic Preservation Element, Section 8.2 Existing Historic Districts, in order to avoid confusion, should add a sentence to the introductory paragraph: “Historic Sites refers to individual properties and individually-listed sites on the State and National Registers are itemized in Community Facilities Section 5.6 Historic Sites. Historic Districts, which contain multiple properties, are listed below.”
On Page 195, the Map of National and State Listed Historic Districts should add “and Sites” to the title and should also show the 17 individually designated sites on the N.J. and National Registers listed in Community Facilities Section 5.6 Historic Sites. This is necessary to show the public the full extent of State and National Register listings in Princeton.
On Page 197, the Map of Local Historic Districts should be corrected to show the actual boundary of the Prospect Avenue Historic District.
On Page 203, Section 8.4 Certified Local Government Status should include a final paragraph to inform the public of the current situation along with the noted recommendation: “The former Princeton Borough and Princeton Township each had Certified Local Government Status, and the municipality will reobtain CLG status to meet State and Federal preservation requirements and to qualify for State and Federal funding for local historic preservation efforts.”
On Page 204, Section 8.5 Historic Resources for Potential Local Designation, the National and State Register Districts should be listed according to the potential impact of the proposed development in the Land Use Plan Element, with Princeton Historic District, King’s Highway Historic District, and Mountain Avenue Historic District at the top of the list.
On Page 205, Section 8.5 Other Potential Sites and Districts should likewise be listed in order based on the potential impact of the proposed development in the Land Use Plan Element, following the recommendations of the Historic Preservation Commission. The updated list should include the Vandeventer-Wiggins-Madison and the Tree Streets areas, among others. Sites that have little or no potential for impact by development such as the Princeton University Graduate College should be at the bottom of the list or not on it at all.
On page 206, Section 8.6, Impact of Other Elements of the Master Plan on Historic Preservation should meet the requirement in the Municipal Code that the Historic Preservation Element include “analyzing the impact of each component and element of the master plan on the preservation of historic sites and districts.” The sentence on page 206 under Land Use Plan Element – “The recommendation to increase housing density and the requirement to ensure adequate protection of historic resources are not mutually exclusive.” – does not meet the definition nor the intent of “analyzing,” and appropriate analysis should be added on the potential impact of the Master Plan’s proposed density and new development on Princeton’s historic resources.
On page 209, Historic Preservation Recommendations – Zoning and Regulations 16. should state, for the reasons noted for page 25 above: “Develop, adopt, and maintain historic preservation design guidelines following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties to improve review of proposed alterations and new construction at historic sites and in historic districts.”
Mr. Zink, a Princeton resident, has a master’s degree in historic preservation from Columbia University and specializes in architectural, industrial, engineering, and landscape history.