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Town Council hosts Eisgruber, Graduate Hotel construction delayed

Orange and white barriers block off one half of a street, with a partially-constructed building in the background
The Graduate Hotel construction on Chambers Street in September 2023.
Jean Shin / The Daily Princetonian

University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 addressed the Princeton Town Council in its meeting on Monday, Feb. 26. During the meeting, the council granted an extension on the Graduate Hotel construction project, which was supposed to end by March, until May 16.

Eisgruber’s appearance


In his opening statements, Eisgruber stressed the importance of “excellence, inclusivity, and free speech,” especially amidst a “tumultuous and demanding year for higher education and for colleges and universities.” The rhetoric echoed Eisgruber’s statements in this year’s State of the University letter, which addressed responses across college campuses nationwide to the war in Gaza and attacks on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in higher education. 

Eisgruber also discussed the continued importance of strengthening relationships between the town and the University, saying that students “feel more and more a part of this community in this town — they want to cross Nassau Street, they want to be part of the life that happens here.” He also said that the values of the town and the University align well, noting that it’s “very important to [him] to be able to continue to advocate for [goals] in a community like this one that cares so deeply.”

Various council members asked Eisgruber questions, including Councilmember David Cohen, who asked about housing for Princeton staff.

Cohen noted that “people who work in [the] dining halls, people who take care of the grounds and the buildings, and even the administrative staff, many of them can’t afford to live here,” adding, “it would be a great thing if the University could create housing for them.”

In response, Eisgruber said, “as we think about these kinds of benefits, or things that we can do for our population, we have to think of them in terms of the overall compensation framework that we provide to our faculty and staff.” 

For faculty, graduate students, and some postdocs, he said that “housing in close proximity to the University and the scholarly community that they are a part of around the clock is very important,” but “for some of our other parts of our population, the trade-off there between wages or other benefits may cut differently,” noting that creating new benefits runs the risk of them being “unevenly spread.”


Councilmember Leighton Newlin asked about the possibility of “redo[ing] Clay Street,” which is the site of an apartment complex that was originally built as a housing project in the 1950’s. According to the Municipality of Princeton’s website, “the homes are an example of Princeton’s efforts at providing low and moderate-priced rental dwellings in the [Witherspoon-Jackson] neighborhood.” 

Newlin cited the need for more affordable housing built “with the resources and the intellect and the intelligence across Nassau Street” at the University. Affordable housing has been an ongoing topic of discussion for the Council and for graduate student and postdoc union organizers.

Eisgruber responded that he didn't know enough to comment on the specifics on Newlin’s proposal, but that he wanted to “work together with this council to identify what the highest priorities are for University involvement as we identify these shared projects and shared objectives.”

Councilmember Eve Niedergang asked about Eisgruber’s vision for the relationship between the town and the University going forward, to which he responded that he looks forward to “continu[ing] to collaborate with one another.” 

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He expressed a desire to work together with the Council to “keep more of those early career graduates and younger people in Princeton to make this … a place where they can flourish as well.” He specifically cited Princeton’s plans to establish an AI hub, which he said could be “dynamic and energizing for the town as well as the University.”

The Graduate Hotel

Pablo David, vice president for community engagement & government affairs at AJ Capital Partners — the firm that manages the Graduate Hotels chain — presented to the Council that the team needed extra time to complete their Princeton project.

“Because of certain delays that we experienced, especially on the front end of the 20 Nassau building due to structural issues,” he said, “we’re here requesting basically a two-and-a-half-month extension to get us through.” 

The new end date for construction, therefore, would be May 16, just ten days before commencement activities begin on Princeton’s campus. In April 2022, the hotel construction was originally planned to wrap up by March 2024. The Graduate Hotel in Princeton is a franchise location of the Graduate Hotels — a brand of themed hotels nearby colleges and universities.

David noted that that construction has been “an inconvenience to many of the residents,” especially since the construction currently requires Chambers Street to be closed in one lane, only allowing northbound traffic. Town Topics has previously reported on “periodic [two-way] closures” on Chambers Street “for delivery of materials and for PSE&G to install transformers in underground vaults for the hotel.”

Ryan Ward, project manager for the hotel project, noted that going forward there will only be a few two-way, full-day road closures for the project. Assistant Municipal Engineer Jim Purcell said that while the municipality tries to warn the community about closures in advance, sometimes closures can be enacted unpredictably.

Several council members were not satisfied with the delay, citing previous delays and concerns over road closures.

Fraga expressed safety concerns about the project, saying that the unexpected road closures were “not only dangerous,” but “also inconsiderate.” 

David acknowledged the public safety issue, saying safety is “something that does need to be tightened up.”

Niedergang later expressed, “I feel this is the second time that you’ve come to us with a choice that is not really a choice. One was after first saying that Chamber Street could be maintained two ways and then coming to us and saying, ‘oops, somebody made a mistake, we can’t keep it two ways, it has to be one way.’ And now after a commitment to wrapping things up and returning the street to a two-way service, you're now coming back to us and saying ‘actually, we can’t do that, or we can’t do that without frequent closures of the street.’”

“I'm frustrated on behalf of the people who this is impacting,” she continued. “What are you offering in return to the people that are being inconvenienced?”

Council President Mia Sacks expressed understanding about the delays, stating, “I would challenge anyone listening or here to come up with one home improvement project or renovation that actually got done on time.” 

“The overall benefit to all those businesses [that have been impacted], in terms of the people who will now be using, shopping, dining, walking around, and providing foot traffic as a benefit to all those businesses, I think will in a very short time make up for whatever economic adverse impact they experienced in the short term,” she said.

Mayor Mark Freda concluded the discussion, stating, “just to make this formal and have it on the record, May 16 is the date. So it means May 17, the road is open.” The motion to grant the extension passed.

Christopher Bao is an assistant News editor for the ‘Prince.’

Annie Rupertus is a head News editor for the ‘Prince.’

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