Fraser Centre ready to move forward in State College

jvanderk@centredaily.comJuly 29, 2013 

— As Fraser Centre inches closer to an anticipated construction start this fall, the final vote took place Monday to approve changes to the project’s plan.

The State College Redevelopment Authority approved those changes with no questions or discussion.

“I’m anxious to get on with it,” member Silvi Lawrence said.

So is developer Susquehanna Real Estate, after years of delays and problems since the original 2005 approval of the mixed-use project planned for the corner of Fraser Street and West Beaver Avenue.

Approval was necessary from all borough parties involved in the project’s land development plan and repurchase agreement — also including the Downtown State College Improvement District and Borough Council — because of drastic changes to the plans since the 2008 agreement between those parties and Fraser Associates, the development partnership.

Originally planned with a movie theater anchor, the project now features a hotel, fewer condominium units, a restaurant and retail spaces. The tenant change required adjustments to the design of the building, resulting in requested modifications to the project’s conditional-use permit.

The revisions include allowing a building height of 155 feet instead of 145, a new curb cut on Beaver Avenue to accommodate hotel unloading and available parking at an off-site location. Nearby borough parking garages will provide that parking.

The council approved the changes at its July 15 meeting, by which time the DID also had done so.

Susquehanna next must submit a revised land development plan, which will be reviewed by the borough’s Design Review Board and Planning Commission. Marketing Manager Kim Lentz said that submission likely would happen by the end of the summer.

After that process, Susquehanna President and CEO Jack Kay has said project construction likely will begin in November.

While Lentz said Monday that Susquehanna isn’t yet ready to divulge who will fill the commercial spaces or how many condominiums are spoken for, Kay said the developer is “pleased with the progress that has been made over the past couple of months.”

Kay said Susquehanna now is focused on finishing the work necessary to start building the project later this year.

All along, borough officials have said they remain optimistic that the project will rise downtown.

“We appreciate that Susquehanna Real Estate LP and their investors, and Downtown State College, have persevered and remain committed to the Fraser Centre project, despite the challenges of the recent economic recession and the impacts related to the scandal,” said authority Chairwoman Vicki Fong. “This project will diversify the residential population in the borough and expand its business base, and enhance the community.”

Fong’s mention of the scandal references Penn State canceling plans to lease classroom space in the theater after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. That resulted in the cinema company pulling from the project, leading to the redesign.

Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter.

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