Waiting game for Fraser Centre

For the CDTMay 10, 2014 

— Though the approaching construction of the Fraser Centre could be a nuisance for nearby businesses, their owners said they are mostly curious about what the building will bring to downtown — and if it really will be built.

The Fraser Centre, on a lot at the corner of Beaver Avenue and Fraser Street, is to be a mixed-use development with retail, hotel and residential spaces, according to its website.

Though workers were spotted fencing off the lot earlier this year, the space has yet to see the beginnings of construction.

“We haven’t really been given an actual schedule yet,” said John Secreto, owner of Comic Swap, 110 S. Fraser St.

Margaret Cruz, owner of Margarita’s Pizzeria, 222 W. Beaver Ave., said she has been waiting for the development for years.

Cruz said the building would be a positive addition to downtown, and she sees construction crews as future customers.

“The construction workers will be here, and they will be eating,” she said.

Secreto said that while the draw of any new businesses in the planned retail space can’t be determined until the Fraser Centre is built, he hopes they will be the kinds of businesses people are attracted to.

“In a perfect world, it will be an attraction for the area,” Secreto said. “It’ll be nice to get a little attention to (the area.)”

George Arnold, Downtown State College Improvement District executive director, said, “The impetus of the project would be some new retail space and a new development in the downtown.

“It’s like a rising tide and will stimulate other business in the area, as well,” he said.

Stephen Miska, owner of Miska Jewelers, 119 S. Fraser St., said that “there’s probably always a need for some hotel space next to the university.”

“There isn’t another spot downtown that’s really this big and open,” he said.

Arnold said the project has been in development since around 2005. He said the developer has submitted site plans to the borough for review and is awaiting approval for construction.

Cheri Christian, owner of Sweet Tooth Bakery, 120 Miller Alley, said that her biggest concern about coming construction is her customers’ access to her store.

Christian said parking in the alley has a five-minute limit, and she is concerned about the possibility of workers’ trucks blocking paths to her bakery.

It will be fine, she said, “just as long as the traffic flow will be OK, if people can still get their products.”

Miska said the space for the Fraser Centre is “definitely an eyesore, to say the least.”

“(It will) beat what’s been there for five or six years. I think it will be a temporary inconvenience,” he said. “We’re not looking forward to the actual process, but we’re looking forward to the actual project.”

“My store has been here for almost 40 years, and the businesses here have already been a constant,” Secreto said. “This has been talked about for years, and at this point, I’ll believe it when I actually see it.”

Paulina Cajigal is a Penn State journalism student.

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