STATE COLLEGE — Local landscape architect Dan Jones used words like “underutilized,” “shocking,” and “surprising” to describe the 100 blocks of Atherton Street.
Jones is helping the borough redesign the corridor, about a quarter-mile from the bus terminal to Highland Alley.
He recently presented the design, explaining concepts to improve the area, to the borough’s Design Review Board. Aaron Fay-ish, of Stahl Sheaffer Engineering, did the same for the transportation commission in July.
The Borough Council will see the plan Sept. 10 during a combined regular meeting and work session.
Jones focused, in part, on the issue of jaywalking, one of the problems the project hopes to address, by using subtle fencing and landscaping to create barriers that will move pedestrians toward crosswalks.
“It could be hard to find an area with more jaywalking,” he said. “The number of people doing it (is) exceptional.”
Other goals include improving the area’s looks and encouraging businesses to reinvest.
Along with fencing and street trees, current designs call for new street lights, wider sidewalks with a section of brick pavers to act as a buffer from the street, and improved crosswalks at the major intersections.
Jones said some complications will include a narrow right-of-way in some spots, which won’t allow for the full width of sidewalks and pavers. Property owners also will factor in, and Jones said at least one doesn’t want trees or anything else along the property line. Others are all for the changes.
“It’s more complicated than it first looks,” Jones said. “We really think this is an underutilized corridor. We want to enhance it as much as we can.”
The project is budgeted for 2013 and was included in the 2012 to 2016 borough Capital Improvement Plan. The total project cost is listed as $800,000, but Jones said the entire thing will cost more than that, though he’s not yet sure how much more. He said phasing and a Penn State contribution might help fund the project.
Gordon Turow, director of Penn State’s campus planning and design, couldn’t say enough positive words about the Atherton Street project and the collaborative way the university, borough and others have approached it. Turow called Penn State an
“abutter,” because it owns land next to Atherton.
“This is a great opportunity to enhance that corridor,” he said. “I think it’s going to make it much more attractive and enhance pedestrian safety.”
In combination with another collaborative project, creating a borough downtown master plan with some emphasis on College Avenue between campus and downtown, Turow said the projects will do a lot to enhance the area.
“They’re a couple of big ideas to make the downtown a more attractive, walkable environment and to make it safer,” he said. “And that’s what we’re working on.”
Penn State owns property on the west side of Atherton that, eventually might be redeveloped. Turow said there is no current plan for such a project.
“We’re very supportive of what the borough is working on,” he said. “We think whatever, sometime in the future, may come, we feel this is compatible with it.”
The DRB gave positive feedback and a statement of endorsement to the project. Members suggested a sculpture or signage in the area of College Avenue and Atherton to serve as a gateway to downtown and campus.
“I think a symbolic sculpture would not affect the corner that much,” said DRB Chairwoman Zoe Boniface. “It says ‘turn here.’ When I first came into town decades ago, I didn’t know where campus was until I had passed it.”
Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter