We are pleased to introduce the Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development (PCRD) to the residents of Princeton. PCRD is a 501(c)(3) organization that was formed in May 2021. Since then, we have taken positions on a number of development projects across town. We would like to take this opportunity to answer some questions about our organization and the positions we have taken.
Why was PCRD formed?
PCRD was formed by a group of Princeton residents to advocate for responsible development across all of Princeton. While we recognize that real estate
developers should have the right to develop their private property, we also believe that high-profile development or redevelopment has an impact on immediate neighbors, as well as the Princeton community at large. Thus, we believe that neighbors and community members should have meaningful input into large-scale development plans in Princeton.
Is PCRD opposed to all new development in Princeton?
Absolutely not. We acknowledge and support the notion that towns need to evolve. To keep a town vibrant, sometimes existing buildings need to come
down and new buildings need to go up. That said, for significant development projects, we believe in balance, taking into account the needs of the property
owner/developer, while also considering the character of the surrounding neighborhood and the desires of neighbors to retain that character,
as well as factoring in environmental and sustainability concerns that a forward-looking community like Princeton should endorse.
The proposed redevelopment of the Tennent-Roberts-Whiteley (TRW) campus has been in the news recently. What is the PCRD’s position on redevelopment of the TRW campus?
PCRD is not opposed to the redevelopment of the TRW campus. We would like to see redevelopment on the campus that enhances the neighborhood,
while embracing environmental concerns (including sustainability and groundwater runoff) and the input of those who will be immediately impacted
by such development.
The TRW campus is currently owned by the Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS). Originally, PTS was planning to redevelop the property to build student housing, a plan that many of the neighbors supported. In 2018, PTS requested that the property be characterized as blighted and designated as an “Area in Need of Redevelopment” (ANR) to build this student housing. That request was approved by the Princeton Council. PTS subsequently decided not to build student housing on the property and is now under contract to sell the TRW property to a private real estate developer. PCRD does not oppose private
development of this tract, but does believe that it should be done responsibly, taking into account the balance described in the answer above.
One significant factor in any discussion of redevelopment of the TRW campus is the density of new structures on the property. Under current zoning, there is an “as-of-right” limit to what can be built on the property, a limit that is considerably higher than what is currently on the property.
With an ANR in place, a developer could construct a significantly larger and denser group of buildings than permitted by the as-of-right standards. This, in turn, would dramatically change the character of the entire neighborhood.
Does PCRD support the continued application of the ANR designation to the TRW campus?
No. The ANR designation was adopted so that PTS could redevelop the TRW campus for student housing. The new developer of the TRW property plans to build private housing units. Under these changed circumstances, we believe that revocation of the ANR is appropriate. Should the new, private developer wish to seek a new ANR to develop the TRW campus for private housing units, that request can be considered on the merits.
What process does PCRD believe is appropriate when deciding how the TRW campus should be redeveloped?
As noted above, PCRD believes that the current ANR for the TRW campus should be revoked. Regardless of whether Princeton Council takes such action,
we believe that any redevelopment plan for the property, given its important historic and aesthetic nature, must involve robust, transparent,
inclusive and meaningful dialogue among all relevant constituencies.
What has the Princeton Council said about the process for determining redevelopment plans for the TRW campus?
Princeton Council agrees with our position. In October 2021, an attorney representing Princeton Council wrote to the private developer and PCRD as follows:
“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.”
We are fully supportive of this wise and inclusive determination by the municipality. We staunchly believe that, only when key stakeholders have a meaningful seat at the table, can we expect smart and responsible redevelopment that serves the interests of the town as a whole.
What is PCRD’s position on PTS’s plans to demolish the historic buildings currently on the TRW campus?
PCRD believes that any planned demolition of the historic buildings on the TRW campus should not occur until a redevelopment plan is in place.
There are many strong arguments, in this eco-conscious age, for adaptively reusing existing buildings, particularly those of historic and aesthetic significance.
Demolition is not reversible and is every bit as much a part of redevelopment as construction of new buildings.
PCRD invites our elected officials, members of Princeton public boards and commissions, town employees, local developers, and residents throughout Princeton to join us in supporting and enabling responsible development across our community.
More information about PCRD, our positions on key development issues in Princeton, and how to join our cause can be found at www.pcrd.info.