The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research. Since it established its own campus in 1939, it has had a strongly residential character, providing a natural framework that fosters interactions among its community of scholars. Faculty appointed to the Institute were able to construct or buy houses in the immediate neighborhood, but beginning in the late 1970s, a steady decline in nearby housing options gradually dispersed the Institute community, sharpening the need to add suitable housing close to campus. Taking advantage of land set aside for this purpose, the Institute refined its longstanding plan for Faculty housing. In 2003 this plan was presented to the Princeton Township Site Plan Review Advisory Board, which made a variety of suggestions to lessen the impact on the Princeton Battlefield and surrounding area.
The Institute has taken these suggestions very seriously, as well as the comments and concerns of all those who, like the Institute, greatly value the Princeton Battlefield. The Institute’s plan for Faculty housing, unanimously approved by the Princeton Regional Planning Board on March 1, 2012, and then amended and approved in November 2014, preserves its natural surroundings, and also respects its historic setting. The Institute’s plan clusters eight townhouses and seven single-family dwellings on a seven-acre portion of its campus. Without adverse impact on the Institute Woods, preserved farmland, and the Institute’s historic campus, the housing plan maintains the peaceful connection with the natural environment that is an integral part of Institute life.
This plan underscores the Institute’s longstanding support for the Princeton Battlefield State Park, which it helped to create and expand. Indeed, today, some 38 percent of the Park consists of land sold by the Institute to the State of New Jersey for the purpose of Battlefield preservation. The housing plan provides for a 200-foot buffer zone alongside the Battlefield Park, which will now be permanently preserved as open space. Further, the Institute believes that it is important to enhance the interpretive materials provided for visitors to the Battlefield Park, and is ready to be a partner in realizing this objective. For more information about the preservation and historical issues related to the Faculty Housing plan, click here.
The Institute is committed to the Princeton community and is proud to be a part of Princeton’s distinguished history. Its tradition of unwavering support for the natural and historical environment is evident through the conservation in perpetuity of the Institute Woods and farmland (more than 78 percent of the Institute’s land holdings) as well as in its responsiveness to the community regarding its Faculty housing plan.
After more than 85 years, the Institute has maintained its extraordinary preeminence in the world of science and learning, and has served as a model for hundreds of theoretical research institutions globally. The Institute's plan for Faculty housing is essential if it is to be able to sustain its mission for future generations of scholars.
For a map of the relevant lands, click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why does IAS need additional housing now? Where do current IAS Faculty live?
Historically, many of the houses in the immediate neighborhood of the Institute, between Mercer Road and Springdale Avenue, have been too large to be affordable for Institute Faculty, and, as real estate prices escalated rapidly in Princeton over the past twenty-five years, many of those more appropriately scaled have become unaffordable. The absence of suitable local housing is far more acute now than it was thirty-five years ago, when 55 to 60 percent of the current Faculty lived in neighborhood houses. Of the twenty-five current members of the Faculty, only twelve live in houses in the neighborhood.
2. Where are the new housing units going to be located on the IAS campus? Will anything be visible from the Princeton Battlefield State Park?
The Faculty housing project site lies directly between existing faculty houses and the Institute’s main campus. The housing plan provides for an additional 200-foot buffer zone alongside the Battlefield Park, which will be permanently preserved as open space. It avoids unfavorable impacts to the campus, the Institute Woods, and the Princeton Battlefield State Park. The seven single-family residences and eight town units are designed with a low profile and exteriors in natural materials, and new plantings will screen them from view.
3. Has IAS considered off-campus housing?
The Institute for Advanced Study exists as a strongly residential community of scholars, where Faculty and the visiting scholars who visit each year live on or very close to campus. Easy walking distance to the Institute’s academic campus is essential in sustaining the Institute’s existence as a true community of scholars. North of the Stony Brook, except on its western side, the Institute’s land is surrounded by developed neighborhoods. More than 75 percent of the Institute’s own land is protected from development by the Green Acres easement, covering 589 acres. Outside these protected acres, the planned site is the only one not intruding on the central axis of the academic campus that can accommodate the number of units needed. As for existing local housing stock, house prices in the Institute’s immediate neighborhood are well above the average price of a home in Princeton, and over time the increasing prices have made them less affordable for faculty.
4. In the age of the internet, email, and teleconferencing, isn’t the residential community of scholars an anachronism?
Absolutely not. One of the defining characteristics of the Institute is its residential existence, where Faculty and visiting scholars live on or very close to campus, and have frequent opportunities to personally interact—either intentionally or by chance—resulting in highly productive and stimulating environment. Such interactions are the basis of the scholarly activities at IAS, and they foster a sense of community and collaboration, leading to progress in the sciences and humanities pursued at IAS. This factor is essential to the Institute’s success and to its existence as one of the world's leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry.
5. What has IAS done for the preservation of the Park?
The Institute for Advanced Study supports the preservation of the Princeton Battlefield and honors those who fought and died there. It is committed to the appropriate preservation of this part of Princeton, which has been home to the Institute since its campus was established in 1939, and it welcomes working in partnership with the State to enhance scholarly and public knowledge of the Battlefield.
The Battlefield Park would not exist on anything like its present scale, or within the appropriate context of the adjacent woods and farmlands, were it not for the Institute’s willingness to work to meet its needs for Faculty housing in ways that have enabled major amenities to be created for the benefit of the public.
In 1959, the Institute donated the former Mercer Manor monumental portico that now stands on the Battlefield north of Mercer Road, commemorating the common grave of unknown American and British soldiers killed in the Battle of Princeton in 1777.
In 1973, the Institute conveyed to the State of New Jersey 32 acres, increasing the size of the Battlefield Park by 60 percent. This sale was made on the basis of a specific commitment by the State in 1971 that the Institute’s field east of the new Battlefield Park boundary could be used as the site for new Faculty housing.
The Institute’s preservation via the 1997 Green Acres easement of the 589 acres of woods, farmlands, and surrounding lands unified nearby preserved lands, further protecting a fifty-six-mile-long greenway network through central New Jersey that is critical for the feeding and nesting of two hundred species of birds on the Atlantic flyway. The Institute funds the maintenance of the Institute Woods and farmlands, which are utilized year-round by bird-watchers, walkers, runners, and cross-country skiers and have provided a place for contemplation and discussion for generations of Institute scholars, from Einstein onward.
6. What have been the findings of the historical and archaeological consultants who reviewed the building site?
A total of three archeological surveys have been conducted on the site. The Berger Group’s report, produced in 2007, concluded that it is very unlikely that any significant concentrations of additional artifacts of the Battle of Princeton may be found on the building site. The report, which included the results of the first survey conducted by Hunter Research in 2003, also concluded that the level of military activity in the project area was very limited, and that the major engagements of the battle, which over the course of that day traversed much of Princeton, took place outside of the project area. At the same time, it has always been understood that it is likely that there were troop movements across the project site, as there were over other parts of the Institute’s campus and the whole area from the Institute up to and including the original University campus.The third survey was conducted in summer 2014 by The Ottery Group, and entailed a comprehensive methodology featuring magnetometry; more than 100 shovel test pits; and metal detection. Of the 663 artifacts collected, ten related to the Battle of Princeton—five musket balls and five pieces of grapeshot. These artifacts, with those recovered from previous surveys of the Faculty Housing site, provide a significant contribution to the interpretation of the Battle of Princeton. For more information, click here.
7. Is it possible for the IAS and its Faculty to coexist with the Princeton Battlefield?
Yes. The Institute has been an engaged and committed citizen since its campus opened in Princeton Township in 1939. The Institute cares deeply about the surrounding neighborhood and environment, and its efforts to preserve lands are a significant part of its institutional history. The Institute helped to create and enlarge the Princeton Battlefield State Park, and believes in the appropriate commemoration of the Battle of Princeton. The Faculty housing project is a natural extension of the Institute’s existing campus and housing areas, and is sited on private land specifically designated for the purpose by the State of New Jersey in 1971. The Institute has acted in a sensitive and responsible manner in bringing its housing plans to fruition and is committed to continuing its role as a partner in the community.