by Katie DiFrancesco ’21
A small group of Princeton University undergraduate and graduate students stand with John Hatch ’84, a Trentonian, architect, and Princeton alumnus, outside the Roebling Lofts. The renovated apartments occupy what was once an old cable ropes factory on Clark Street in Trenton. Around the lofts other factory buildings are home to shops, community organizations like the Trenton Circus Squad, and services like the Social Security Administration. Other buildings remain vacant.
The scene offers a juxtaposition of rebound and decline, of past and present, all within a 360-degree view. “Like most American cities, Trenton faces serious challenges,” said Hatch. “We have lost much of our industry; many of our residents are relatively poor and relatively under-educated; because much of the property in the city is owned by government entities and not-for-profits, the property tax base is small and the tax-rate high. ... On the other hand, Trenton is a great place to live, work and raise a family. I’ve lived here for 31 years and feel blessed that I’ve had this opportunity.”
Meeting with Hatch is just one way participants in the Trenton Summer Fellowship, a pilot program with the John H. Pace, Jr. ’39 Center for Civic Engagement, are gaining insight and appreciation for the Trenton community.
Organized by Melody Zheng ’22, from Oakland, California, the Trenton Summer Fellowship offers weekly events to introduce students interning, researching, or working in Princeton or Trenton to each other and the city of Trenton. To date, the group has participated in many activities including reflective dinners, baseball games, a tour of Trenton, and service in the community.