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Burstein: Part of the plan includes developing a plan

By Ruth Stevens

Princeton NJ -- In mapping out his first priorities on the job, Vice President for Administration Mark Burstein is intent on another kind of schematic — a sound and forward-looking physical plan for the campus.

“President Tilghman has completed a significant amount of work in the initial phases of planning — developing overarching principles for campus expansion and improvement,” he said. “The challenge now is to take these objectives and make them much more fine-grained, and to come up with a sense of how these broad principles would affect our next decisions on construction, on transportation issues, on landscaping and on the physical aspects of the campus.”

Burstein, who joined the University last summer (see related story), is spearheading a two-year planning effort that will begin this spring. It will involve hiring an outside firm to develop an overall campus plan and simultaneously working with individual firms to develop designs for specific areas of the campus.

Planning efforts to be guided by a set of five overarching principles:
  •   maintain a pedestrian-oriented campus
  •   preserve the park-like character of the campus
  •   maintain campus “neighborhoods” while promoting a sense of community
  •   build in an environmentally responsible manner
  •   sustain strong community relations.

“[Vice President for Facilities] Mike McKay, [University Architect] Jon Hlafter and I hope to involve many members of the University community in this next phase of planning as well as to consult regularly with the borough and township,” he said.

Burstein already has had conversations with Stan Allen and Guy Nordenson of the School of Architecture as well as other members of the architectural community about involving a wide range of architects in new construction projects. “We’ve really been blessed with the history in this area,” he said. “We’ve had some extraordinary buildings designed by some very talented people. But it takes energy to make sure that continues to happen.”

The planning efforts will be guided by a set of five overarching principles that were crafted by Tilghman in consultation with the President’s Advisory Committee on Architecture and architects who have worked on the campus. They are: maintain a pedestrian-oriented campus; preserve the park-like character of the campus; maintain campus “neighborhoods” while promoting a sense of community; build in an environmentally responsible manner; and sustain strong community relations.

According to Burstein, the firm hired to develop an overall campus plan will concentrate on a number of issues, including: traffic, transportation and parking; pedestrian circulation; servicing the campus (i.e. garbage collection); the environment (i.e., wastewater capacity, heating and cooling system efficiency); landscaping; lighting; and zoning analysis.

Some of the specific projects being considered for assignment to individual design firms are: a redesigned intersection at University Place and Alexander Road; development of the Armory area; new and renovated science and engineering facilities; and improved faculty and graduate student housing.

The firms will be charged with studying individual areas and developing a plan that enhances the connection between people and places. For example, with the University Place/Alexander Road project, designers might identify ways to reconfigure traffic patterns and, building off the proximity of McCarter Theatre, propose academic uses for the area in conjunction with street-level retail.

While the campus planning and design efforts will be separate, Burstein envisions a cooperative process that will address common concerns. “Our goal is to foster dialogue between the planning firm and the design firms,” he said, “so the process will be more iterative than sequential.”