FERGUSON TOWNSHIP — Officials have talked up the need for collaboration on West College Avenue changes, but they differed on how much is taking place as the township and State College continue work to improve the corridor.
The main thoroughfare travels through both municipalities and past Penn State land, along with land owned by various property owners.
Both municipalities hosted meetings this week to discuss improvement issues. The borough is trying to reorganize efforts that stalled last year, while a steering committee including representatives from all parties is progressing with a design to improve West College Avenue from Blue Course Drive to Buckhout Street.
The borough’s discussion picked up Monday night at a joint work session between the council, the Planning Commission and the redevelopment authority. Borough Council last spring indefinitely tabled years-discussed plans to address retail and residential uses in the West End, at the same time asking the planning commission to reconsider the area’s urban village zoning.
Evan Myers, Planning Commission chairman, recalled many contentious meetings and expressed frustration at the issue’s bouncing back and forth between boards with no final consensus.
“We see Ferguson Township putting their own plan together down the street,” he said, adding that Penn State has a “tremendous impact” on any borough actions in the area.
Others commented on a lack of communication between entities, as well as the potential for partnerships to change the corridor.
“The challenge for the borough is, do we act or do we react?” asked Planning Commissioner Ron Madrid. “Do we act in isolation, or do we act with Penn State and Ferguson?”
After about two hours, board members offered direction on the issue, favoring pursuit of small redevelopment projects to start, a focus on connecting the municipalities and campus, and loosening some restrictive retail requirements.
“I still think we need to be consistent, to relax some things in our zoning,” said Councilman Tom Daubert. “I think we should move ahead and have a goal.”
The committee that includes Ferguson Township and the borough, as well as Penn State and the state Department of Transportation, has goals of improved aesthetics, slower traffic and better pedestrian facilities on the corridor.
Consultant Evan Stone, of T&M Associates, the firm designing the plan, said during a final public meeting Tuesday that a price tag of about $7 million could pay for all proposed sidewalk, street tree, intersection and other improvements.
Stone emphasized the drawings aren’t final. The township supervisors will discuss the plan at its Oct. 15 meeting, including potential phasing.
Supervisor Bill Keough has served on the committee and said while it hasn’t answered all questions in the corridor, it’s a good interim step for improving it.
While it’s traffic-centric now, “we’re saying we want to make this pedestrian friendly,” he said. “We want to be a player in what happens on West College Avenue.”
Myers also attended that meeting and said he liked what he saw on the streetscape plans, noting their similarity to plans presented in the borough to improve Atherton and Pugh streets.
However, his main concern was parallel parking proposed between Corl and Buckhout streets. He said much of West College traffic is local, and that the parking would create dangerous situations.
Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter