Princeton University is planning to close its much-loved [and affordable!] Butler Apartments off South Harrison Road next summer. Despite complaints from graduate students about the limited rental options in Princeton, there are currently no plans to redevelop the site. In June, we called for Princeton U. to ‘think big’ at Butler, by providing a higher-density, mixed-use center for accommodating graduate students, post-docs and moderate-income families, with shops and amenities directly on-site.
If Princeton University wants a model for what a redeveloped Butler could look like, a good place to start would be at The College Of New Jersey (TCNJ), located just 10 miles away in Ewing, NJ. For most of its history, Princeton University was in fact called ‘The College of New Jersey’, but it took the name of our town in 1896. Meanwhile, the college that was founded as ‘New Jersey State Normal School’ and subsequently became ‘Trenton State College’ took ‘The College of New Jersey‘ as its name in 1996, despite legal objections from its Ivy League neighbor to the north.
TCNJ is now a public college focused on liberal arts, with around 7,000 students. Its history can be seen from attractive Georgian-style architecture around its 289-acre campus (see image above), but it has big plans for getting in shape for the 21st century. TCNJ is redeveloping a scrappy, under-utilized site on the edge of its campus as ‘Campus Town‘, a mixed-use development on 12 acres that will house 446 students.
The Campus Town project is a model of Smart Growth development, providing walkable residential opportunities, reduced impact on the environment, tax ratables for the local municipality, and enhanced community spaces for neighbors and students to recreate in a vibrant environment with shopping opportunities, a Fitness Center and restaurants close to hand. As the College describes:
“Campus Town will deliver amenities that will appeal to the broader College and Ewing communities, such as retail stores and restaurants. Campus Town is envisioned to be a sustainable, walk-able, and environmentally responsible complex located on the edge of TCNJ’s campus.” (read all about Campus Town here)
The redevelopment is taking place as a result of a public-private partnership, partly using stimulus dollars. As a result of the operation of the site, TCNJ expects to realize $50 million in lease payments. Non-student members of the public will be able to use the site, including the stores and restaurants, with the exception of the Fitness Center, which is intended for students only.
Overall, the Campus Town development offers significant advantages to TCNJ, students, local residents and the taxpayer. It looks set to be an outstanding example of how to retro-fit a vibrant mixed-use center into a infill site. Why doesn’t Princeton University do something similar at the Butler Apartments site?
Our comments section is open for you to leave any thoughts or questions relating to the material published on this blog. Feel free to leave a comment below.