University gives town residents, officials update on development of 2026 Campus Plan

Representatives of Princeton University gave a status report Monday, Sept. 19, to town of Princeton residents, council members and planning committee members on the 2026 Campus Plan that is being developed.

The new plan, which will succeed the University's 2016 Campus Plan coming to a close, will establish a framework to guide the evolution of the campus through 2026 and beyond.

The plan will encompass most of the land the University owns and will consider two planning horizons: a 10-year horizon to provide detailed guidance on near-term growth and change, and a 30-year horizon to establish a broader strategy for development of campus over the next generation.

"The University and the town share a unique relationship," said Cyndi Rottenberg-Walker, a partner in the Toronto-based firm Urban Strategies Inc., the University's lead consultant on the 2026 plan. In the town council chambers, Rottenberg-Walker gave on an on-screen presentation (PDF) outlining major objectives of the plan for the Princeton campus.

She enumerated the plan's principles, which are to:

  • Provide an integrated environment for teaching, living, learning and research
  • Enhance the campus's distinctive sense of place
  • Foster a setting that is welcoming and supportive and encourages positive interaction and exchange
  • Create a climate that encourages thoughtful and creative approaches to sustainability
  • Serve communities that extend beyond the campus.

Joining Rottenberg-Walker in explaining the campus plan were University Architect Ron McCoy and Bob Durkee, University vice president and secretary. The speakers noted the ties between the 2026 Campus Plan and the University's Strategic Planning Framework that was adopted last year.

Key projects for the campus plan identified in the strategic plan include new facilities for the School of Engineering and Applied Science and for environmental studies, as well as facilities to complement the University's existing innovation ecosystem, housing for undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral staff; and initiatives to promote sustainability.

The University speakers noted that while the 2016 Campus Plan focused on the central University campus between Nassau Street and Lake Carnegie, the 2026 plan will also study University-owned land beyond Princeton in West Windsor and its campus lands in Plainsboro. 

Noting the planners' "early thinking," Rottenberg-Walker showed a map with a potential grid of pathways laid out across the West Windsor lands connecting to the central campus across Lake Carnegie. The map showed two potential bridges crossing the lake for pedestrians and cyclists, providing greater access to the parklands along the lake and future development in West Windsor. 

Durkee, McCoy and Rottenberg-Walker mentioned the University's efforts in recent years to enable the community to reach and navigate campus on foot, on bicycles and public transit, and to reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles coming to campus. That effort will continue and expand in the 2026 plan, and McCoy noted national demographic trends showing automobile use on the decline. "The future is changing for the good," he said.

A planning committee member asked about the future of Springdale golf course. Rottenberg-Walker noted that the golf club's lease runs for about 10 more years, but said the long-term use of the land will be to support the University's educational mission. Planners have not talked specifically about future uses of that property, but any use of the land would include restoring Springdale Creek that runs through the property and would take into account the interests of its neighbors and the property's history.

Several questions focused on housing as the University looks to expand its undergraduate population 10 percent in the coming years. The University will build a new residential college, and also expects to construct additional housing for graduate students, postdocs, faculty and staff. Durkee stressed that even with the expansion of the student body, the University will continue to keep its focus as a residential learning community. 

Asked about plans for the Butler Tract, where old graduate student residences were recently torn down, Durkee said it would be used for housing, but not for undergraduates. "What housing will be there and when is undetermined," he said. McCoy added that development there would fit with the neighborhood.

The University representatives said the 2026 Campus Plan should be completed near the end of summer in 2017, roughly one year from now.