Princeton University’s plans to build an arts and transit village surrounding McCarter Theater might have ended on January 31. In a joint meeting with the Princeton Borough Council and Township Committee, university officials, including president Shirley Tilghman, made their last pitch for a $100-million arts neighborhood that would move the Dinky station 460 feet closer to Princeton Junction and convert University Place into a larger arts destination.
But years of acrimony, disagreement, and debate seem to have gotten the better of the university. Those who oppose moving the Dinky at all and those who propose to replace it with everything from semi-private carts to a fleet of buses spoke after the university’s presentation and accused the university of not listening to what the town is saying.
According to the Daily Princetonian, by meeting’s end university officials said that it was time to forget about the arts and transit neighborhood, at least in this location. University vice president Bob Durkee said that the public’s response Monday night — and over the past five years — suggests that the university abandon the project at University Place and find somewhere else to put it, the paper said.
Though the idea to move the Dinky generated familiar antipathy, the university did receive general public support for an arts village idea. University officials claim that an arts village could spark dozens of jobs and pump more than $300 million into the town’s economy. According to the Princetonian, the university now will turn its attention to other areas and devise an alternate use for the area near McCarter Theater.
Whether or not the university is bluffing, it is still unclear what will happen to the train and its station downtown. The line, which has seen sinking ridership numbers over the past several years, has as many people looking to save it as it has enemies. It is questionable whether NJ Transit can continue to support the line that connects the university to Princeton Junction, though Governor Chris Christie has announced his support for it.