This spring the Princeton Theological Seminary inaugurated an ambitious plan to both downsize and renovate its campus.
But the municipal approval process went on a summer hiatus while the school evaluated input from residential neighbors, historic preservation advocates, and others. Some of the most pressing concerns might be addressed if some construction is moved from adjacent residential streets to the block now containing the seminary library and parking lot.
A special September meeting of the Planning Board had to be postponed and is awaiting rescheduling. But much less high profile was the Theological Seminary’s appearance at the October 23 meeting of the Princeton Zoning Board of Adjustment. The seminary gained approval for a small but significant project involving a 200-year-old campus building and a nearly 100-year-old missionary organization.
The building is the Alexander House, located on the seminary campus at 58 Mercer Street. It was constructed in 1819 for co-founder and first professor Archibald Alexander, next to the newly opened great main “hall” of the school (which today also bears Alexander’s name). PTS wants to convert its downstairs living room and library into office and conference spaces, with kitchenette and small bathroom.
Because the home stands within the Mercer Hill Historic District, the plan was first reviewed by the Princeton Historic Preservation Commission, which had no objections as there will be no exterior changes.
The house also stands in an E-4 zone, which allows residences and offices together but not in combination. After detailed presentations by its consultants, including Flemington-based architect Jeffrey A. Fleisher and planner Elizabeth K. McManus of Kyle & McManus Associates in Hopewell, the seminary received unanimous approval for a D-1 variance allowing office space inside a residential structure.
“We’re maintaining the character of the neighborhood,” said planner McManus during her testimony. “This is not a major expansion of the theological seminary.”
And why is this so important to PTS?
On June 5 the Princeton Theological Seminary and the Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC), which is currently based in New Haven, signed a memo of agreement under which OMSC will relocate to Princeton next summer.
The 58 Mercer Street house will be its new headquarters, with executive director Thomas J. Hastings and his family living upstairs. (There will be just two non-residing additional staff.) OMSC is then scheduled to become a full part of PTS in 2022.
OMSC already has a New Jersey connection. It was founded in 1921 in the Jersey shore town of Ventnor-By-The-Sea. Known then as “Houses of Fellowship,” it provided rest and renewal for missionaries after long and sometimes arduous postings abroad.
The organization eventually filled the need for scholarly work on Christian missionary tradition and activities. In 1950 it established a journal that, as the International Bulletin of Mission Research, is still published. In 1967 it took its present name of the Overseas Ministries Study Center.
OMSC will continue to run its research and publications as well as an artist-in-residence program. Its collection of Asian Christian artwork will also be publicly displayed at the seminary.
In a statement announcing the PTS-OMSC memo of understanding, seminary president M. Craig Barnes said, “The center’s residents and programs will enrich our community and deepen our students’ understanding of world Christianity.”
As noted, the coming of OMSC to Princeton is not part of the PTS campus downsizing and renewal plans. However, that much greater project is a proactive response to declining seminary enrollments nationally. So perhaps there is a commonality. OMSC’s integration into PTS may herald a trend in which religious academies, large and small, will benefit not only from fellowship but formal joining as well.
Princeton Theological Seminary has remained very much in the news. On October 18, the seminary announced that its board of trustees had “unanimously endorsed the implementation of a multi-year action plan to repent for its ties to slavery.”
An historical audit determined “that the Seminary did not own slaves and its buildings were not constructed with slave labor.” However, some of its founders “used slave labor at some point in their lives,” and the school “benefited from the slave economy” via investments in southern banks pre-Civil War and donations from patrons who had profited from slavery.
In response, the Seminary is instituting a multi-point program that will include scholarships and doctoral fellowships for descendants of slaves or from underrepresented groups; hiring a full-time director for the Center for Black Church Studies and naming the center in honor of Princeton-born Betsey Stockton (who was freed from enslavement and became a missionary to what is now Hawaii); plus initiatives to establish partnerships with “historically disenfranchised communities in and around Princeton.”
Zoning Board updates
In addition to the seminary’s case the Zoning Board heard four additional applications at its October 23 meeting.
21 Battle Road, Albert E. and Jenny G. Internoscia, owners and applicants, sought D4 and C1/C2 for FAR, lot area, height to setback ratio, impervious coverage ratio, length of front facade, and the distance permitted between the openings of a U-shaped driveway to permit the construction of a new home and secondary residence. The application met with strong resistance from a dozen neighbors present at the meeting and was continued to December 11.
Three additional applications were approved:
186 Birch Street, Robert and Margaret Miller, owners; and Carlo Balestri, AIA, applicant. D4 variance for FAR to permit the installation of a roof and skylights over an open interior courtyard.
96 Fleming Way, Vaibhav Narayan and Shalini Chaturvedi, owners and applicants. D4 variance for FAR to permit the enclosure of an existing open front entry.
884 Princeton Kingston Road, Vijaya V. Kethireddy, owner and applicant. C1 variance to permit the development of a single-family dwelling on a non-conforming lot. The subject lot is smaller than the required lot area. C2 to permit and exception to the required height to setback ratio on the two side yards.
The next Zoning Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 13.
The following listings of residential home sales are based on public records and tax files. The number in parentheses after the closing price indicates the amount it was above or below the original listing price.
536 Prospect Avenue. Seller: 39 Random LLC. Two-story Colonial in Riverside. 5 bedrooms, 6.5 baths. $1,922,500 (-$302,500).
17 Katies Pond Road. Seller: Jeffrey Sussman and Adell Patricia. Buyer: Chao Yan and Sun Lang. Two-story Colonial in Rushbrook. 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. $2,400,000 (-$395,000).
170 Terhune Road. Seller: Princeton Capital Group. Buyer: Wei Cui and Yun Lu. Two-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2 half baths. $1,280,000 (-$19,000).
67 Greenway Terrace. Seller: Joann Jedrusiak. Buyer: Beech Grove. Two-story Colonial. 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. $995,000 (-$105,000).
148 Herrontown Road. Seller: Roy Tavener. Buyer: Cristian Ghiuvea and Iuliana Ianus. Two-story Colonial in Littlebrook. 6 bedrooms, 5 baths, 2 half baths. $1,650,000 (-$338,000).
144 Library Place. Seller: John and Mary Heilner. Buyer: Jonathan Levine and Felicia Sexsmith. 3-plus-story Victorian. 6 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. $1,840,000 (-$559,000).
145 Shadybrook Lane. Seller: Allen and Dona Schneider. Buyer: Daewon and Bheram Lee. Split level in Littlebrook. 4 bedrooms, 3 baths. $900,000.
109 Ridgeview Circle. Seller: Robert and Marcia Hendler. Buyer: Chuan Lu and Xiaomei Shen. Two-story Contemporary. 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. $1,640,000 (-$138,000).
7 Park Place. Seller: Kenneth and Jennifer Mischner. Buyer: Leverly Properties. 2.5-story Victorian. 5 bedrooms, 3 baths. $901,000 (-$24,000).
20 Leigh Avenue. Seller: Lee and Shaney Rudolph. Buyer: Donglin and Wenzhe Liu. Two-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 2 baths. $478,225 (-$20,775).
85 Winant Road. Seller: Carol and Burton Rothberg. Buyer: Jeanne Stahl and Daniel Elliot. Ranch. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths. $875,000 (-$10,000).
54 Lafayette Road West. Seller: Yee Meen Chai and Hee Yun Kim. Buyer: Fan Sun and Xing Zhang. Two-story French. 4 bedrooms, 5.5 baths. $2,550,000 (-$145,000).
8 Autumn Hill Road. Seller: Ted and Matthew German. Buyer: Matthew and Jennifer Weinstein. One-story Contemporary in Herrontown Woods. 3 bedrooms, 3 baths. $526,500 (-$158,500).
13 Trewbridge Court. Seller: David and Lisa Rossbach. Buyer: Yuhan Li and Hui Yang. Tonwnhouse in Fieldwood Manors. 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. $757,000 ($2,000).
85 Overbrook Drive. Seller: Ruth Wedelich. Buyer: Myo Aung and Yin Tun. Two-story Colonial in Littlebrook. 4 bedrooms, 3 baths. $839,000.
154 Prospect Avenue. Seller: Josephine Ottman. Buyer: Simon and Kate Berring. Three-story Colonial. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $1,250,000.
57 and 55 Leigh Avenue. Seller: Jill Anderson and Steven Behnamnia. Buyer: Dariusz Kobajko and Jonna Kulikowska. Three-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 2 baths. $825,000 (-$25,000).
31 Maclean Street. Seller: Patricia Ramirez. Buyer: Witherspoon-Jackson Development Corp. Single-family in Abbot Commons. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths. $400,000 (-$60,000).
38 Constitution Hill West. Seller: Newell Woodworth Estate and Enid Woodworth Estate. Buyer: Lynn Maher Trust and Howard Maher Revocable Trust. Condo in Constitution Hill. 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $630,000 (-$35,000).
110 Potters Run. Seller: Dennis and Yvonne Quinn. Buyer: Javier Fernandez and Cristina Herrero. Two-story Colonial in Heatherstone. 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $905,000 (-$64,900).
478 Riverside Drive. Seller: Paul and Suan Geller. Buyer: Grosso Homes LLC. Ranch in Riverside. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths. $750,000.
212 Herrontown Road. Seller: Sandy Yeung and Raymond Sun. Buyer: Zifang Guo and Lei Pang. Two-story Colonial in Littlebrook. 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. $1,115,000 (-$180,000).
42 Wilkinson Way. Seller: Mara Olmstead and Mara Yoelson. Buyer: Wei Kuo and Connie Guo. Townhouse in Washington Oaks. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $730,000.
96 Dempsey Avenue. Seller: Dominic Vigiano and Debra Lambo. Buyer: Eun Buettner. Ranch in American Way. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $850,000 (-$88,000).
171 Ridgeview Circle. Seller: Ajay Dhal and Roopali Gupta. Buyer: Shin-Heng Chiou and Silke Steurich. Ranch. 3 bedrooms, 4 baths. $845,000 ($24,000).
36 Mercer Street. Seller: William and Roxane Jones. Buyer: Stephen Ebans and Cheryl Powers. Two-story Colonial. 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. $1,795,000.
175 Arreton Road. Seller: Qing Yang and Yan Sun. Buyer: Scott Seibert and Maria Kraimer. Two-story Colonial in Princeton Ridge. 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. $1,260,000 (-$39,000).
199 Snowden Lane. Seller: 199 Snowden LLC. Buyer: Xavier Boutry and Cecile Ollagniew. Two-story Colonial. 5 bedrooms, 5.5 baths. $1,680,000 (-$55,000).
41 Constitution Hill West. Seller: Adele Borrus Estate. Buyer: Theodore Boyer abd Jane Rohlf. Two-story Contemporary twin in Constitution Hill. 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. $850,000.
229 Terhune Road. Seller: Grosso Homes. Buyer: Benjamin and Clare Mackness. Three-story split level. 4 bedrooms, 3 baths. $1,160,000 (-$89,000).
238 Mount Lucas Road. Seller: 238 Mount Lucas. Buyer: Mark McConnell and Connie Chen. Two-story Colonial. 4 bedrooms, 2 baths. $595,000 (-$54,000).
102 Snowden Lane. Seller: Craig and Monica Blessing. Buyer: Yueting Zhang and Roman Akhmechet. Two-story Colonial in Littlebrook. 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. $815,000 (-$130,000).
15 Poor Farm Road. Seller: Verna Matthews Estate. Buyer: David and Jane Kim. Two-story Contemporary. 4 bedrooms, 3 baths. $850,000 (-$20,000).
283 Mount Lucas Road. Seller: Oleg Chebotarev. Buyer: Alexander and Helen Kim. Two-story Contemporary. 4 bedrooms, 3 baths. $1,195,000.
201 Mercer Street. Seller: Cheng Chen and Paula Zhou. Buyer: Alexander and Sarah Brooks. Two-story Contemporary. 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. $1,044,475 (-$105,525).
218 Gallup Road. Seller: Andrew and Gretchen Eberhart. Buyer: Lenard and Charlotte Marcus. Two-story Colonial. 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. $1,300,000 (-$99,000).
148 Fairway Drive. Seller: Colin Wright and Mary Skeels. Buyer: Marcello Santoro and Megan Walsh. Two-story Traditional. 7 bedrooms, 6.5 baths. $1,200,000 (-$299,000).
246 Witherspoon Street. Seller: 246 Witherspoon Partners. Buyer: Oliver and Marion Gaillard. Two-story Cape Cod. 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 half baths. $685,000 (-$14,000).
747 Kingston Road. Seller: Next Phase Development LLC. Buyer: Regal Build Group. Two-story Colonial in Riverside. 6 bedrooms, 5.5 baths. $1,525,000 (-$274,000).
92 Battle Road. Seller: 92 West Battle Road LLC. Buyer: Alexander and Irina Sidorenko. Two-story Colonial near the Institute for Advanced Study. 4 bedrooms, 5.5 baths. $2,230,000 (-$69,000).