University submits Arts and Transit project to Planning Board

April 23, 2012 10 a.m.
Updated A&T Neighborhood Map

Image courtesy of Beyer Blinder Belle, Michael Van Valkenburg Associates and Steven Holl Architects

Princeton University has submitted its Arts and Transit project to the Regional Planning Board of Princeton for the site plan approval that is necessary to begin construction. The University hopes to begin work on the $300 million project early in 2013.

"The University's plans reflect the zoning for this site that was adopted last year by Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, and as our planning has evolved we have continued to try to accommodate suggestions from members of the Princeton community and the University community to create a project that will meet multiple objectives and lead to increased interaction between town and gown," said Vice President and Secretary Robert K. Durkee.

The plans include the first arts building on the site, which is being designed by the world-renowned architect Steven Holl to house the Lewis Center for the Arts. The building will provide space for theater, dance and music; office and display space; a large gathering space known as the forum; and an outdoor plaza. The plans also include designs by the award-winning Rick Joy Architects for a new Dinky station and Wawa building, and for the renovation of the existing station buildings for a restaurant and café. The plans include infrastructure improvements on the site and adjacent roadways, a multi-modal transit center and extensive landscaping.

"In the drawings we shared with the Planning Board and the public in February, we shifted the arts building to the south and we substantially improved the design of the transit plaza," Durkee said. "The design we have now submitted makes a few further adjustments in the location and orientation of Steven Holl's building and we have been able to make even further improvements in the transit plaza as the result of having reached an agreement to purchase the property at 152 Alexander Street that is adjacent to the plaza.

"Rick Joy's design for the station building and Wawa reflects sentiment that we heard in a number of community discussions in favor of some separation between the two spaces," Durkee added. The spaces are linked by a covered outdoor space, and the Wawa is conveniently located for Dinky passengers, but it is possible to use the station building without being in the Wawa, and to use the Wawa without being in the station building. The plan includes commuter parking, meter parking, drop-off and Wawa parking, and evening and weekend access to the University's Lot 7 garage.

The designs for the existing station buildings include an addition to a portion of the eastern side of the southern building to accommodate additional indoor seating and kitchen space and to help frame an outdoor seating area that looks west and south toward McCarter and Berlind theaters and the new arts building and its public plaza.

The University's plans continue to include a roundabout at the intersection of Alexander Street and University Place and an access roadway from Alexander Street to the University's Lot 7 garage. These and other measures will help reduce traffic volume and improve traffic flow in the area and achieve sustainability goals. The arts building includes green roofs and geothermal heating and cooling, and the overall plan reduces impervious surface in the area. The site has been designed to encourage public access and use, and the landscaping of the site, under the auspices of the landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, will be the most extensive landscaping project the University has ever undertaken.

The Planning Board is expected to review the plans later this year.