Gateway Lost


A new development is coming out of the ground on the north side of Princeton at the intersection of State Road 206 and Valley Road, Little news has been given to this event, perhaps a non-event as deemed by the authorities. What does the town have in mind for this high-visibility land parcel?
What we see today is the sad detritus of an aged elementary school, a bus garage and some tired buildings fronted by surface parking. There was a ray of hope when the public works building complex was razed, opening up the possibility for a much needed, public space. Well, here’s the scoop.
In 2014, Princeton’s Council approved a much needed ALS facility, Advanced Life Saving, that would replace the time-worn, out-of-date PFARs also known as Princeton Fire and Rescue Squad. Rumor has it that the University offered a building site close to campus, and closer to the hospital, but the Council demurred in favor of a site with closer proximity to government offices.

According to the Town Topics article from September 21, 2016, the Town is working closely with DOT and reports that a new traffic signal will be installed at Route 206 and Valley Road, with other changes to be made at the intersection of 206 and Cherry Hill Road. Imagine the confusion! Could this have been the only site available for this use? Perhaps more to the point, what impact will this intervention have on the physical appearance of the northern gateway into Princeton, not to mention the pedestrian safety and walkable experience?

As towns go, Princeton is blessed with natural and man-made beauty with two exceptions:
the intersection described above and the nine-tenths of a mile of Witherspoon Street that stretches from this intersection to Paul Robeson Place. For reasons unknown, the town has turned a blind eye.

In our work as architects, we are free to imagine the beauty and pleasure of physical space that engages man-made and natural environments. We view the intersection of 206 and Valley Road as Princeton’s welcoming front door that continues along Witherspoon Street to the top of Nassau Hall. Walkable Princeton starts here with a pedestrian foot bridge that crosses over 206 to provide safety and encourage walking and biking. Our dream is to see a round-about displaces that at the intersection, closing Valley between Witherspoon and 206, and creating a beautiful park on the parcel one occupied by the public works complex.