Princeton University has submitted an application to the Princeton NJ Planning Department for a major modernization of its Dillon Gymnasium (map). Constructed in 1947, the existing Dillon Gym was among the last buildings on Princeton University campus to be built in the ‘collegiate gothic’ style, and is probably one of the only gyms in America to be constructed with battlements. Dillon is the main site where Princeton University students can participate in campus recreation activities, but it has not been updated substantially since it was built. With an increasing student body, the University now aims to refurbish and expand Dillon, to provide improved fitness and wellbeing offerings to students and faculty.
A major goal of the modernization of Dillon will be to improve walkability and accessibility. The building will be remodeled to create a new main entrance off Elm Drive. A small parking lot at the site will be eliminated to create ‘Tower Plaza’ (see image at top), which would be buffered from the road by new plantings and would provide a space for “people to meet and linger in conversation”. A new elevator would be installed within the building, to provide accessibility to all levels.
In addition to the new entranceway, Princeton University is proposed to construct a new two-story addition on the south side of Dillon Gymnasium. The new structure would support improved fitness amenities, and the surrounding area would be repaved and landscape for recreational uses, including “basketball, outdoor exercise, and informal gathering”. To make space for these uses, a bunch of existing modular utility buildings will be cleared from the site. New trees, shrubs, and grasses would be installed around the perimeter of the site to provide seasonal interest to passing pedestrians.
Improvements to energy efficiency and stormwater handling would be part of the Dillon Gym modernization. The new addition would have a ‘green roof’, and new pervious pavers, bioswales, and infiltration trenches would ensure that the redeveloped site produces less stormwater run-off than under existing conditions. No increase in traffic is expected from the redevelopment. Vehicular access, where it is required, would be via Dillon Court Drive, but is anticipated to be limited to utility vehicles, deliveries and emergency services. The University’s site plan application also considers historic preservation, a matter that has caused substantial discussion regarding the University’s new Engineering and Environmental Sciences Complex. The University notes that the Dillon Gymnasium is not part of a local historic district, and is not subject to local regulations. The refurbishment will nonetheless follow preservation standards established but the U.S. Department of the Interior for historic structures.
Documents related to the proposed Dillon Gym refurbishment are available through the Princeton Planning Department at the following links: