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Monday, April 24, 2017
Arts neighborhood

An updated map of the arts and transit neighborhood, as well as a printer-friendly (.pdf) version, is available.

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Arts neighborhood plan revised

Princeton University has updated its concept plan for the Alexander Street/University Place neighborhood based on feedback from meetings with neighbors and local officials and comments received through the University's campus plan website.

"We have learned a great deal from these meetings and comments and from the many other discussions we have had about this area, which we now more accurately think of as an arts and transit neighborhood," wrote Robert Durkee, Princeton vice president and secretary, in a letter to local officials. "This more inclusive term underscores the importance of this area serving key transit needs for the community as well as for the University, in addition to providing expanded capacity for academic programs and performance in the arts."

A realigned intersection featuring a roundabout to ease traffic congestion continues to be part of the plan. A key change from the plan revealed earlier this year is the creation of a new public transit plaza between Alexander Street and a new Dinky station, just west of the Lot 7 garage. The plaza is intended to increase visibility of the station from Alexander Street and provide better access to the station, the parking garage and the relocated Wawa. The new Dinky station would provide such amenities as an indoor waiting area, restrooms, a newsstand and a coffee shop. As required by New Jersey Transit, it would also have the capacity to support bus rapid transit.

In his letter, Durkee acknowledged community concerns about the impact on those who walk to the Dinky station of the proposal to move its location about 460 feet to the south.

"We have taken a fresh look at whether there is any way to create an arts and transit neighborhood on this site and improve traffic flow in this area without moving the Dinky, but it is simply not possible," he wrote. "If the Dinky platform were to remain at its current location it would not be feasible to relocate the Wawa and, under the terms of our agreement with New Jersey Transit, it would not be possible to relocate the parking lot. One consequence of this would be a continuation of the same traffic patterns we have now, which would become worse if shuttle and jitney traffic were added, and even worse if bus rapid transit had to be accommodated at the existing station.

"In addition, based on further discussions with New Jersey Transit and our consultants, we believe that because of a number of legal and physical constraints it would not be possible to construct a grade crossing across the tracks into the Lot 7 garage to help meet the parking needs of the arts neighborhood," he continued. "With the Dinky platform, the Wawa and the parking lot remaining in their current locations and with no driveway into Lot 7, we would be unable to develop this area in any meaningful way for the arts or to make any significant improvements at the intersection of Alexander and University Place or in other transit patterns in the neighborhood."

Durkee noted that the University has participated in discussions with Princeton Borough about a plan to introduce a community jitney service that would provide service between the Dinky station and downtown. He said the University is supportive of the proposal and is "prepared to contribute to its costs."

The neighborhood design is being developed as part of a two-year effort to create a comprehensive plan for the campus that will guide development over the next 10 years and beyond. The area, already home to the McCarter Theatre Center's Matthews and Berlind theatres, is being considered as a location for various facilities the University will need to meet the goals of the new creative and performing arts initiative announced last year. The plan calls for new spaces for theater, dance, music, new media and an expansion of the art museum, along with some retail activity and a landscaped plaza.

"The idea," Durkee said, "will be to create a space that is attractive and welcoming to members of the community, students, visitors and others."

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