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Planning Board to consider two Prospect Avenue applications during Sept. 23 meeting

LEA KAHN/STAFF

Princeton University will find out whether the Princeton Planning Board will grant its application for minor site plan approval, which would lead to the demolition of three Victorian houses on Prospect Avenue, when the board meets virtually at 7 p.m. Sept. 23.

This will mark the third meeting in a series of public hearings to consider the application. If it is approved, Princeton University will move the former Court Club building at 91 Prospect Ave. across the street to the site of the three houses at 110-116 Prospect Ave. after they are demolished.

The Planning Board started its public hearing on the application at its June 17 meeting. Additional testimony was presented at a special meeting July 8, but the board ran out of time to complete the public hearing on the application.

Depending on the outcome of the minor site plan application, the Planning Board may also begin the public hearing on a related application for Princeton University’s planned Environmental Studies and School of Engineering and Applied Science complex (ES+SEAS) at the Sept. 23 meeting.

The proposal to demolish the three Victorian houses and to move the former Court Club building across the street to their former sites is key to the planned ES+SEAS complex. It would occupy about 3% of the land occupied by the Court Club building at 91 Prospect Ave.

The ES+SEAS complex would require the demolition of buildings at 5 Ivy Lane, 87 Prospect Ave. and the Ferris Thompson Apartments on Western Way. The parking lots behind the eating clubs on Prospect Avenue, located on Ivy Lane, also would be demolished.

The ES+SEAS complex consists of two buildings – the Environmental Studies building and the School of Engineering and Applied Science building – which will be connected by a Commons area and total a combined 666,000 square feet. They will each house teaching and research laboratories, and classrooms.

The Environmental Studies building will have office space for the Department of Geosciences, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and the Princeton Environmental Institute.

The School of Engineering and Applied Science will have office space for the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and a future Bioengineering Institute.

Princeton University’s proposals, however, have run headlong into opposition from residents and historic preservationists. The Planning Department staff also has weighed in on the minor site plan application for 110-116 Prospect Ave.

The town’s Historic Preservation Commission declined to endorse the plan to tear down the three Victorian houses at it June 7 meeting. The commission is advisory to the Planning Board.

An online petition circulated by opponents to the demolition of the houses had gained hundreds of signatures.

In a June 14 memorandum to the Planning Board, Planning Director Michael LaPlace wrote that Princeton University “should seriously consider amending the application to preserve and adaptively re-use the former Court Club building in its present location.” It could be updated and incorporated into the ES+SEAS complex.

Preserving the Court Club building in its present location would allow the university to “make possible the restoration and productive use of the three existing structures across the street at 110-116 Prospect Ave.,” LaPlace wrote.

Preserving the buildings would “be consistent with Princeton’s Master Plan in terms of protecting the historic architectural legacy of our community and maintaining existing neighborhoods,” LaPlace wrote.

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