Planning Board to continue Prospect Avenue application in October

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Princeton University representatives will return to the Princeton Planning Board in October to complete a public hearing on a proposal to demolish three Victorian houses at 110-116 Prospect Ave. and to move the former Court Club building at 91 Prospect Ave. across the street to those lots.

The Planning Board listened to four hours of testimony and comment at its Sept. 23 meeting – from residents, the Save Prospect Coalition, and Princeton University representatives. It was the third in a series of public hearings on it that began in June.

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Princeton University is seeking minor site plan approval to tear down the houses. It needs a variance to permit a 105-foot buffer between the Court Club building in its proposed location and the adjacent Prospect Apartments on the north side of Prospect Avenue. The minimum buffer is 250 feet.

The proposal is key to Princeton University’s planned development of the Environmental Studies and School of Engineering and Applied Science (ES+SEAS) complex – about 3% of which would sit on land occupied by the former Court Club building. It was one of several “eating clubs” that provide meals and social activities for Princeton University undergraduate students.

Testifying for the Save Prospect Coalition, architectural historian Clifford Zink outlined several options that would save the houses and also allow for the construction of the ES+SEAS complex.

One option would keep the Court Club building in place, demolish 110 Prospect Ave. and move the Theorist Pavilion – part of the ES+SEAS complex – on that lot, Zink said. There would be no cost to relocate the Court Club building, and the Theorist Pavilion would be the gateway to future buildings on the north side of the street.

Another option would keep the Court Club in place, with an addition for the Theorist Pavilion, rather than a stand-alone building. The proposal would keep the three Victorian houses intact on the north side of Prospect Avenue.

Those options had been presented to Princeton University officials earlier this month, but did not find favor with the university. Moving the Court Club building is integral to the proposed ES+SEAS project, officials have said.

Princeton University Architect Ron McCoy said the proposals suggested by the Save Prospect Coalition “just do not work. The ES+SEAS is a once-in-an-institutional lifetime project.”

“With all due respect, I have to say that the people who are proposing the plans that they are convinced will work do not not know our requirements,” McCoy said of the Save Prospect Coalition.

However, McCoy left open the door to some potential modifications of the ES+SEAS plans.

Princeton University officials looked at the logistics of moving the Court Club across Prospect Avenue to the north side of the street, in an effort to preserve 116 Prospect Ave., McCoy said.

The house at 116 Prospect Ave., which is next to the Prospect Apartments on the corner of Prospect Avenue and Murray Place, can be saved and rehabilitated, McCoy said.

“We believe this is a meaningful opportunity in the spirit of compromise,” he said.

“It shows that we are listening for solutions and provides an opportunity to save at least two of the four buildings related to the project,” McCoy said. They are the Court Club and the three houses at 110-116 Prospect Ave.

If the Planning Board is willing to approve relocating the Court Club across the street, then Princeton University officials will agree – as a condition of the board’s approval – to preserve and rehabilitate 116 Prospect Ave., McCoy said.

But the Planning Board ran out of time to complete the public hearing, and agreed to pick up where it left off at the Oct. 21 meeting.

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