For over a century, the “Dinky” train station has been a cultural landmark in Princeton, New Jersey. But that all could soon change thanks to an ambitious redevelopment plan from Princeton University.
The Dinky, first constructed in 1865, is being decommissioned and is set to turn into a café and restaurant. The University plans to develop the downtown area along University Place and Alexander Street into an arts hub, complete with a new arts center and other attractions. University officials also say a new train station would open about 400 feet away from the old one.
The plan has been in the works for years and so has the opposition. A group known as the “Save Dinky Campaign” wants the historic station to remain a station. They even filed lawsuits and petitioned for work stoppages.
In October, a judge will make a final decision on the plan. Despite this, the University still closed the station over the weekend. Shuttle bus service is currently being provided for passengers at the location.
“The University knows they are proceeding at their own risk,” Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert said. “So if they lose in court they will have to go back and rebuild everything to where it was.”
Princeton spokeswoman Kristen Appleget did not speak on the upcoming court decision.
“I cannot comment on any litigation or the outcome of that litigation,” she said.
Commuters at the train station had mixed reactions to the closing.
“To be perfectly honest it hasn’t been a train station for a while,” Ben Baker said. “The interior hasn’t been open for years. It’s really just a building that’s been sitting there. I don’t see any reason to preserve it as a station when it hasn’t been a station.”
“I think they should have refurbished the old one,” Martha Love said. “It’s a lot of money and a lot of expense to make something brand new.”
Mayor Lempert says she understands why some in Princeton are against the redevelopment.
“When you have a community like ours, change is always hard,” she said. “But it’s even harder when people love the way things are.”
Even if the judge rules in the University’s favor in October, the entire transformation will take years. The new station would be up by next fall while the art center would debut in 2017.