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Charter prepares for expansion as interest in eating clubs rises

Charter Club at night

Charter Club.

Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

Charter Club has announced plans to expand the club alongside the University’s goal to expand the student body. Project 79, the Charter expansion project, will ensure the clubhouse “has the capacity to serve the present membership and accommodate growth,” according to the plans released by Charter this semester. Members celebrated the plan’s kickoff in the Great Room at the clubhouse on Oct. 20, 2023, though no concrete timeline has been announced.

Current membership faces challenges including limited dining space, a lack of female restrooms, and facilities that do not meet the needs of students and alumni with mobility challenges. A letter published by the Board of Governors, undergraduate officers, and club management, stated “This project will address the aforementioned challenges of capacity, accessibility, and efficiency while preserving our Club’s timeless design and feel.”

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The plan is asking alumni for donations totaling $6,112,000 to complete the expansion, describing the club as “a special place for all of us” and noting that “Project 79 is essential for the future of Charter.” 

Project 79 describes the Club as “serving approximately 180 members annually with full waitlists,” but anticipates growth of club membership as Princeton’s student body continues to expand. 

The University’s four-year expansion plan involves increasing first-year class sizes by 125 additional members; the Classes of 2026 and 2027 both had increased class sizes of 1,500 and 1,366 respectively. The previous incoming classes between 2017 and 2023 had fewer than 1,350 members per Class.

Next February, members of the Class of 2026, Princeton’s largest undergraduate class in its history, will participate in Street Week, a series of events hosted by all eleven eating clubs to introduce potential members to the eating clubs. The Daily Princetonian’s Frosh Survey data shows that interest in eating clubs has increased over the past three years, standing at around 60 percent for the Class of 2027 and 58 percent for the Class of 2026. Only around 50 percent of the Class of 2025 said, as first-years, that they anticipated joining an eating club.

Charter named several improvements, including expanded patio, terrace, and dining spaces and capabilities, the addition of women’s and accessible bathrooms on the first and basement floors, and accessible pathways to the first and basement floors.

Charter’s expansion comes as many other eating clubs expand their facilities and membership. Six of Princeton’s 11 eating clubs, according to the Princeton eating club website, now boast more than 180 members, including Cannon Dial Elm Club with 219, Cap and Gown with 312, Terrace F. Club with 180, Tiger Inn with 189, Tower Club with 220, and Charter itself with 187. 

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According to Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW), a number of expansions of other clubs took place during 2010. Cap and Gown “added a wing with a dining room and a geothermal heating and air-conditioning system,” moved the taproom, and expanded ground-floor terraces. Tiger Inn undertook a project similar in cost to that of Project 79 at $6.2 million. This project “expanded the dining room substantially” and refurbished “every room in the club.” Cannon Dial Elm underwent “extensive renovations” prior to its reopening at a cost of $3.5 million. The work included expansion of the dining room, installation of a buffet area, and the addition of a third taproom. Ivy Club also undertook an expansion, theirs in 2009, building the Griffin Wing

Charter took on a renovation in 2011 to convert a storage room into a lounge area and in 2019 and 2020, sought plans from sophomores to “take the eating club in a ‘bold new direction’” after its membership dropped to 29. A ‘selective sign-in’ system was formed at Charter which led to 127 new members joining during Street Week in February 2020.

Amid Charter’s success, as evidenced by its extensive waitlist, Cloister Inn contains just 44 members. An email sent to alumni described a “crisis,” asking for “$250,000 by the end of this school year,” according to Cloister’s Board of Governors. While fundraising, the Board has also suggested a sophomore takeover — a plan that proved successful for Charter with the selective sign-in system just three years ago

As spring Bicker approaches, over the past weeks, the Class of 2026 has been bombarded with emails from various eating clubs inviting them to pre-Bicker events. According to Charter’s expansion plans, the club’s recent success “has opened a window to Charter’s future.”

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Victoria Davies is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.