State College Planning Commission, developer hope to see Fraser Centre work start soon

mcarroll@centredaily.comMarch 27, 2014 

Fraser Center land development rendering.

IMAGE PROVIDED.

— Count at least one borough Planning Commission member among those who are ready to see the much-anticipated Fraser Centre project finally come to fruition.

“Let’s get this long-suffering project built,” Planning Commissioner Rich Kalin said Thursday.

The panel reviewed a land development plan for the long-delayed building at a regular meeting Thursday and seemed to take no major issue with the direction of the project. The commission didn’t make any recommendations for changes.

After leaving the meeting, developer Gary Brandeis said the next step is to apply for permits to start site work at the location.

“The plan is to get that done and start foundation work,” Brandeis said. “Before we can pour any concrete or start anything physical we have to get approval.”

Brandeis said he will apply for the permits Friday, but he doesn’t expect that process to be finished until sometime this summer.

Crews have now finished preliminary engineering and geotechnical work at the site, he said. Parking lots that had been operating on the undeveloped site were closed in February to accommodate that work.

Brandeis said developers are still negotiating with prospective commercial tenants, but during the meeting reiterated that the building will house a hotel, retail space and privately owned residential units.

The Planning Commission questioned Brandeis and his group about finer details Thursday, including how an entrance for the hotel on Beaver Avenue could affect congestion on event weekends, and about projected water usage for the structure.

Commissioner Zoe Boniface questioned the proposed use of light-colored synthetic stucco material on parts of the exterior, raising concerns the building could eventually look dirty and adding, “It’s important this building looks high class.”

“Our interests are aligned,” Brandeis said. “We are going to have what I would consider national, international retailers .. who will be very conscious to what you’re saying. Those things are going to be the demands of our customers, our users.”

Some residents at the meeting raised concerns about the 26 condominiums planned for the building, and whether the units could be rented by their owners.

Brandeis said that decision has not been made, but that the developers would put together condominium association bylaws sometime after construction begins. Borough zoning rules for the building prohibit college students from living in the units unless they are directly related to the owners.

The meeting offered new details in what has been a much-scrutinized project since plans for construction were first approved in 2005.

That development eventually fizzled and never came to fruition. Susquehanna Real Estate later purchased the land and revived the project in 2013.

New plans for the site were approved by Borough Council in July, but Susquehanna sold the land before it could begin construction.

Brandeis and a business partner, Daniel Deitchman, purchased the property in October and are pursuing a similar project to what was proposed by Susquehanna.

“We’re ready to go,” Brandeis said.

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

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