Save Historic Prospect Avenue from Damaging Development

Save Historic Prospect Avenue from Damaging Development

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Save Prospect Now started this petition to Princeton University

The Princeton Historic District on Prospect Avenue (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) has long been considered the jewel of our town, with rows of stately Eating Clubs and charming turn-of-the-century homes. One author has dubbed it, "the most beautiful suburban street in America.” But Princeton University’s ES+SEAS development plan proposes moving the Court Clubhouse at #91 Prospect out of the Princeton Historic District and across the street – destroying three significant Victorian houses on Faculty Row – and inserting a large incompatible building and landscape, thus irreparably harming the Historic District and Prospect Avenue streetscape.

Most in the community are generally supportive of the new ES+SEAS project, taking issue only with the small 3% portion which extends all the way up into Prospect's Historic District. The University claims they need to demolish the three Queen Anne Victorians (at 110, 114 and 116 Prospect) to clear space for the Court Clubhouse to be moved into their location, making way for a modern concrete and glass edifice to be constructed in #91's place. The Princeton Historic Preservation Commission unanimously opposes this proposal and advises the town Planning Board to reject it.

With nearly 15 total acres available for the sprawling site plan, why co-opt and build in #91's exact spot at all? Moving the Court Clubhouse to gain only another ½ acre simply doesn't make sense. In fact, there is already a vacant lot immediately adjacent (at 111 Prospect) giving 150' of frontage for northeastern access to the future ES+SEAS campus. Elsewhere in the plan is an open two-acre area designated for "Future Development" – that is, unused land... So there is no need to relocate and isolate the Court Clubhouse, causing it to lose its National Register listing, while losing the three historic Victorians forever.

The Victorians on Prospect are actually the oldest buildings on the street and are rich in cultural history and lore. One was the former location of two eating clubs, and all served as homes for distinguished PU and IAS theorists. As Marquand Professor Thomas D. Kaufmann has shown, these were residences which welcomed art history giant Erwin Panofsky, W. S. Hecksher, and other refugees from Nazi fascism, and where celebrated thinkers lived, gathered and wrote over the past century. From Panofsky’s prodigious son, the physicist Wolfgang “Pief,” to his close friends Albert Einstein and Rensselaer W. Lee, to the influential musicologist Oliver Strunk and renowned classicist Froma Zeitlin, these homes have been a nexus for visionary interdisciplinary thought for generations.

The University's proposal on Prospect continues its recent trend of demolishing longstanding houses and encroaching into residential neighborhoods. In the 2010s, it tore down multiple historic buildings and homes for development on adjoining Olden Street and on Alexander Street. The University now proposes a serious intrusion into the residential areas near Fitzrandolph Road and Murray Place which – if not prevented – establishes a precedent for the demolition of other homes and clubhouses as more departmental buildings creep further onto Prospect and beyond.

The University said they're doing this because they seek the brightest and the best for their planned Engineering building. We ask those bright engineers to return to the drawing table and find an appropriate way to retain the Court Clubhouse in place, while preserving the three Victorians and taking care of them again. It would be a minor reconfiguring of a fraction of the vast 666,000 sq. ft. project – just a small amount of thoughtful redesign to do the right thing. This would also be the most sustainable outcome because it would retain the buildings' embodied carbon in place.

Preserving the extraordinary history and streetscape of Prospect Avenue would make everyone happy, and it would be considerably cheaper. The University just has to bend a little.

Please sign our petition asking the University to develop a design that follows National Park Service policy by keeping the Court Clubhouse within the Historic District and saving the three Victorians of Faculty Row. This would maintain the unique historic character of Prospect Avenue for the benefit of present and future generations.

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This meeting will be open for public comment. Because the University needs a variance from the town for their proposal on Prospect – a public street – this hearing is where its fate will be decided.

In summary, all of these historic structures (see gallery) contribute significantly to the fabric and character of Prospect Avenue and deserve proper preservation and protection, not denigration and destruction. With all of the impressive resources and billions of dollars at the University's disposal, more can be done.

For more information, please see this 26-page presentation from the non-profit Princeton Prospect Foundation (PPF).

Thank you so much for your help!

In the News:

Residents start petition calling on Princeton University to reconsider plans to demolish three Prospect Avenue homes and move former Court Club

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Historic Preservation Commission Advises Planners to Reject University Application

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Prospect/Fitzrandolph/Murray Place Neighborhood Should Stay as It Is

Razing of Victorian Homes on Prospect Avenue Will Set a Dangerous Precedent

Urging Planning Board to Reject PU’s Request for Variance on Prospect Avenue

Planning Board holds hearing on University's plans for Prospect Avenue buildings

Planning Board hearing on PU plans for Prospect Avenue carried over until July 8

PU Prospect Avenue Plans Remain Unresolved

Noting Grassroots Community Opposition To University’s Prospect Avenue Plans

Urging Planning Board to Deny Variance Sought By PU for Prospect Avenue Plan

University Plan for Prospect Avenue Courts Controversy

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Suggesting a Plan B Alternative to University’s Prospect Avenue Plan

University Plan Faces Continuing Controversy

On Prospect Avenue, It's Town vs. Gown

PU Prospect Avenue Plan Hearing Postponed; Opposition Continues

Verdict on University's Prospect Ave Plan Delayed to September

Princeton's Prospect Avenue Plan Discussion Postponed By 2 Months

Planning Board hearing for Prospect Avenue application will continue in September

Disregard for History

It’s Time to Stand Up To PU and Just Say No to Prospect Plan

Prospect Avenue Club Row district on agenda for Princeton Preservation Commission Monday afternoon

Historic Preservation Commission Considers Club Row Historic District

PU Stonewalls the Community On Its Engineering Complex

Prospect Treasure Should Be Given Care and Protection It Deserves

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!
At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!