Many of you have expressed frustration with the slow process, lack of information and resolution on the future of the Tennent Roberts Whiteley campus. We agree.
The unfortunate demolition of the historic TRW buildings is all but completed, and the two-year anniversary of the formation of the Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development (PCRD) is rapidly approaching.
Accordingly, the PCRD Steering Committee would like to highlight what has happened to TRW, what we have accomplished to date, and what we would like to see going forward, including what you can do to help ensure that the redevelopment of this property is in the best interest of the neighbors and all of Princeton.
FIRST, HERE’S WHERE WE STARTED:
1) In late November 2020, we learned that Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) had reached a conclusion to sell the TRW property for development.
2) Several who live close to the property and a core group of the Mercer Hill Historic District Association (MHHDA) met to form PCRD to formally address issues of development in Princeton, including TRW.
3) The TRW Committee of PCRD has held regular meetings over the two-year period, focusing, initially, on gathering as much information as possible related to the prospective sale and attempting to establish a dialogue with the key players - PTS, the contract purchaser (Herring Properties) and the Princeton town officials.
4) In October 2021, a lawyer representing the Municipality of Princeton wrote:
“… any redevelopment of the [PTS property] must be the result of a collaborative effort between the Contract Purchaser, [PCRD], the neighborhood, and [PTS] as appropriate.”
The letter goes on to state that
“… those with immediate and direct interest in the redevelopment of the [PTS Property], including the Contract Purchaser, [PCRD], and other impacted neighbors, should work together to achieve a mutually acceptable plan.”
NEXT, HERE’S HOW WE HAVE RESPONDED:
With that directive in mind, PCRD reached out to all players numerous times to seek opportunities to listen and to be heard. Until very recently, most efforts on the part of PCRD were rebuffed or paid only lip service.
Nevertheless, PCRD continued to gather essential information on its own to communicate with other Princeton residents and with other external experts. Armed with this learning, steps taken this year included the following:
· Early on, sending an email to nearby neighbors, inviting them to circulate it to others, to inform them of what was then known about the prospective sale and asking recipients to sign up for additional updates, if interested. PCRD’s mailing list now consists of a significant number of concerned residents from widespread neighborhoods in Princeton.
· Using local media for letters to the editor, comments and articles taking positions on development in Princeton, generally, and TRW, specifically.
· Conducting research on development limits in a historic district.
· Consulting with the Historic Preservation Office and Commission in Princeton.
· Gathering information on zoning regulations applicable to the TRW site.
· Preparing architectural renderings on potential development that would enhance and respect the historic site in question.
· Inviting and meeting with representatives of the Watershed Institute on the TRW property to investigate the potential negative effects of both demolition and development on already at-risk homes in an area with known stormwater runoff issues.
· Sending periodic updates to the mailing list when there were new developments.
· Creating and conducting a research survey designed by an outside expert, sent to the residents mailing list to elicit views on what makes Princeton important to them and what their concerns are about overdevelopment and redevelopment of TRW specifically.
· Initiating informal walk through the TRW/Mercer Hill Historic District neighborhood with Council member Michelle Pirone Lambros to discuss development and zoning concerns and opportunities.
· Attending Council meetings online and later in person to speak about the relevant issues.
· Consulting with lawyers and an engineer about the process of redevelopment and important positions for PCRD and constituents to take as the process moves forward.
· Meeting twice with Jamie Herring and his architectural staff in August and September, identifying common ground shared by both parties, as well as differences that must be resolved. All agreed to continue our dialogue.
· Meeting with Princeton Councilman David Cohen in late September to share perspectives and determine how to fuse the objectives of the prevailing Area in Need of Redevelopment Statute with the appropriate Zoning Ordinance, and to integrate them with building and design development.
FINALLY, THIS IS WHERE WE WANT TO GO NEXT:
Although much has transpired over the course of the last two years, there’s still much to be done. The window of opportunity is likely to extend only until the first quarter of 2023 when the Planning Committee is likely to begin their formal review of Herring Properties completed redevelopment plans.
The most important leverage now is the power of public opinion. We must hold the town officials, Herring Properties, the Princeton Theological Seminary to the town’s directive that:
“to achieve a mutually acceptable plan” … “any redevelopment of the [PTS property] must be the result of a collaborative effort between the Contract Purchaser, [PCRD], the neighborhood, and [PTS] as appropriate …” and
“those with immediate and direct interest in the redevelopment of the [PTS Property], including the Contract Purchaser, [PCRD], and other impacted neighbors, should work together to achieve a mutually acceptable plan”
PCRD needs your commitment and involvement with our common cause. We urge you and concerned residents to engage in the following ways:
· Write emails and letters to Town officials, making your views known. Here are the applicable email addresses:
Mayor Mark Freda: firstname.lastname@example.org
Council members (in alphabetical order)
David Cohen: email@example.com
Letitia Fraga: Lfraga@princetonnj.gov
Leighton Newlin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Eve Niedergang: email@example.com
Michelle Pirone-Lambros: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mia Sacks: email@example.com
· Write letters to the editors of local media outlets:
Town Topics: firstname.lastname@example.org
Planet Princeton: email@example.com
· Encourage the Town Council/ Planning Board to follow through on the Area in Need of Development (ANR) designation requirement that there be an opportunity for public input in open meetings; and
· Encourage officials to keep the public informed as the process evolves so that public response can be more meaningful.
Thank you for your support. Please contact us immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are seeking direction on how to participate or have questions.