To the Elected Officials in Princeton and the Princeton Theological Seminary Board of Trustees:
We are a group of concerned residents of Princeton, many of whom live within walking distance of the historic Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) Tennent- Roberts-Whitely Gym campus along Stockton Road in Princeton.
We learned recently, from PTS and others, that PTS, as directed by its Board of Trustees, is marketing this historic campus property. Presumably, any buyer of this tract would look to develop it through the construction of new residential properties or possibly for other purposes.
If not done thoughtfully, such a development could have a significant negative impact on this historic property and the surrounding community, with a resulting loss of open space and the potential for meaningful traffic and storm water management issues, as well as light and noise pollution for the nearby residents. Use of this sort could eliminate much of an appealing open space that welcomes those entering Princeton by way of Route 206 from the southwest and creates an attractive green space for those in the neighborhood and all of Princeton.
In an era where open space and sustainability is of increasing importance to all of us, these are absolutely vital features of any development scheme for a town like Princeton. The feel and use of this important and historic property can and should be thoughtfully preserved for the enjoyment of all of Princeton for generations to come.
We, the undersigned, would like to establish a dialogue so that all voices are heard before any decisions about development of the Tennent-Roberts-Whitely Gym property are made.
As you know, back in 2018-2019, the Princeton Mayor and Council designated a number of PTS properties throughout the neighborhood as an “Area in Need of Redevelopment,” the purpose of which was to allow PTS the opportunity to readapt student housing, improve connectivity between PTS properties and the main campus, improve traffic flow, and preserve open space. PTS engaged in extensive and prolonged dialogue with the community about how to achieve their goals while being mindful of the surrounding neighborhood.
While that process did not ultimately result in a development plan that came to fruition, we applaud PTS for their efforts at community engagement as the plan was under consideration. We firmly believe that, as anticipated by the town’s Area in Need of Redevelopment designation, such community engagement is fully appropriate under the present circumstances.
Furthermore, in light of the past Area in Need of Redevelopment designation, we are not clear on how other properties in the area might fit into the mix. Among our questions is what PTS intends to do with 92 Stockton Road (part of the Mercer Hill Historic District), as well as other parcels owned by PTS and included in the Area in Need of Redevelopment, such as the playing field at the corner of Hibben and Mercer Streets. Moreover, the Princeton Planning Committee and other municipal officials do not have development plans for the Tennent-Roberts-Whitely Gym campus and will not until a buyer/seller contract is completed and an application for development is in hand. There are many unanswered questions.
In short, our ever-growing group of Princeton residents:
would like to work with a developer to devise and execute a plan that is good for the community and good for the developer;
is concerned about maintaining the character of the neighborhood in which the properties sit, including retaining the sort of sustainable open green space that we all treasure;
has been in active dialogue with non-profit organizations and developers about a solution that might meet these goals; and
would like to explore giving serious consideration to adaptive reuse as a viable development option.
We encourage creative, outside-the-box solutions and would love to partner with a developer who is also open to working with concerned neighbors to establish a positive outcome for the developer and all of Princeton. We are open to considering a broad range of possibilities, including either (a) renovating the existing Tennent- Roberts Whitely Gym structures or (b) building new structures that have roughly the same footprint as the existing structures, thereby maintaining an equivalent amount of open/green space, while sustaining the current architectural aesthetic. The end result could be residences and/or other adaptive re-uses of the buildings and property
What are we asking of you, our elected officials, and Princeton Theological Seminary? To allow our voices to be heard as follows:
Before any decisions are made on the sale or development of the Tennent- Roberts-Whitely Gym property, members of the community should be involved in discussions on how the property would be developed in a community-friendly way, consistent with the Area in Need of Redevelopment guidelines calling for proactive public participation during the process of preparing a redevelopment plan.
At a minimum, we believe that the community should have a seat at the table before any important development decisions on the Tennent-Roberts- Whitely Gym campus are made, not after the fact.
Some in the neighborhood are in the early stages of preparing a proposal of our own for a plan to use the property and buildings in a way that will serve the interests of the neighborhood and all of Princeton, while, at the same time, allowing: (a) PTS to realize a fair price for this important asset and (b) any developer to earn a reasonable rate of return. We would like an opportunity to more fully develop this proposal and explore its promise with multiple constituencies in the community.
A meeting to discuss the foregoing.
We respectfully request that you acknowledge receipt of this letter and provide us with your thoughts on next steps. You may direct any response to Jo Butler (firstname.lastname@example.org), Brad Middlekauff (email@example.com) and Karen O’Connell (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We all have a stake in keeping Princeton uniquely beautiful and sustainable while still evolving with the times. We look forward to working together to achieve these goals.
(Names listed in alphabetical order)
Martha R. Ackerman and Bruce L. Ackerman
Lisa and J. Bewkes
Robert and Martha Bolton
Peter and Betsy Brown
Jo and Jim Butler
Sarah and Shaun Callaghan
Robert and Kathie Carr
Tom and Ann Chapman
Caroline Cleaves and Sean Wilentz
Frances C. DeMuth and David P. DeMuth
Robert and Erica Fein
Suzanne Gespass and David Dobkin
Jan Tullio Giles
Emanuele Gillio and Ana Martin
Lee Hagen and Mimi Mead-Hagen
Mike and Susan Head
Claire and David Jacobus
Landon and Sarah Jones
Steve and Shirley Kern
Nora and Jack Kerr
Rakesh and Sophia Kumar
Lynn and Fred Lepore
Andrew and Anya Littauer
Bob and Jane MacLennan
Ann and Michael Mantell
Michelle McKenna and Patrick Bernuth
Brad Middlekauff and Nancy Goldin
Dean and Jill Mitchell
Karen O'Connell and Patrick McDonnell
Udi Ofer and Kacy Wiggum
Noriko Ohta and Austin Newton
Christopher Olsen and Kim Howie
Dorothy and Charles Plohn, Jr.
Barry and Ann Ridings
Claire and Alex Ridings
Whitney and James Ridings
Carolyn and Bruce "Rob" Robertson
John and Ruth Sayer
Joel Schwartz and Corrine O’Hara
Anita & Abe Thomas
Meredith and Henry Von Kohorn
Woodney and John Wachter
Signatories reside on the following Princeton streets: