New owner takes over State College Fraser Centre plan

mcarroll@centredaily.comJanuary 10, 2014 

FraserCenter5

Signs promoting the Fraser Center sit on the empty lots between College and Beaver Avenue on Thursday, January 9, 2014.

ABBY DREY — CDT photo Buy Photo

— It’s been two months since the then-developer of the Fraser Centre said groundbreaking would occur for the long-awaited and delayed project, and not much has changed at the site of the future 12-story building.

But much has happened since the prediction, which came in July after Borough Council voted to clear the way for the building’s construction.

For one, the property has a new owner.

Susquehanna Real Estate, the developer when the permit was approved, sold the property to a new partnership in October. And those now in control say they can’t provide a time frame for when construction will start.

“We understand this is a significant project for State College,” said Gary Brandeis, of Real Estate Capital Management, one of the owners and developers.

“We are motivated to start construction as soon as possible,” Brandeis said in an interview this week. “...We are getting the project going in the right direction.”

The proposed building is one of two major construction projects on the horizon that will alter the landscape of downtown State College. But the site still sits vacant, as has it since on-again, off-again plans were first approved in 2005.

After years of delays and changes, the plan was revived earlier this year by the Susquehanna group, which appeared to pave the way for construction to start in November on a mixed-use building that would include a hotel, retail and commercial space, and residential units.

Now it will be a partnership of Brandeis and Daniel Deitchman, of Brickbox Enterprises in Mechanicsburg, that is tasked with bringing the building to fruition.

Brandeis, who was a partner in the previous ownership group, said the project should look largely the same as the one Susquehanna was pursuing.

“There are some tweaks to it — things to make the project more streamlined, more feasible,” he said. “But overall, it’s pretty much what everyone thinks.”

The previous plans approved by borough officials called for a 250,000-square-foot structure at the corner of West Beaver Avenue and South Fraser Street.

The 155-foot building, facing West Beaver Avenue, would feature a 158-room hotel, 26 condominiums, retail space and a restaurant, according to those plans.

The first floor from the front of building would feature a hotel lobby and retail space. Above that would be a restaurant and hotel space. The next six floors would be hotel rooms, and the top four floors would be privately owned condominiums.

There also would be internal parking on two floors below ground level from the front of the building.

Brandeis, who like his business partner is a Penn State graduate, said the building will bring amenities and uses not seen before in State College building projects.

“It’s not student housing,” he said. “We’re trying to bring a project that’s never really been done before.”

Borough officials had previously said that at least three retail stores or restaurants agreed to lease space, but the names of those entities were never disclosed.

It’s not clear whether those businesses are still on board, or whether the current developers are seeking new tenants. Brandeis said he could not reveal much information about what businesses might fill the building.

Susquehanna agreed to purchase the property in 2008 from State College for $3.275 million, making a final payment to the borough in 2011, according to the company’s website and courthouse documents.

They sold the property for $4 million in October to the partnership of Brandeis and Deitchman, according to those documents.

Susquehanna officials did not return a call seeking comment.

State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said the current developers have been working to resolve outstanding issues for plans and approvals in the past few months.

“I am confident in the developers, and I expect this project to be built,” he said in an email. “... The developers have been working closely with our planning and public works department to prepare final plans and advance the project.”

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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