State College looks to crowdfunding for some projects

mcarroll@centredaily.comJune 9, 2014 

— Want to support art installations downtown or to help build up amenities in neighborhood parks?

The borough is exploring a new possible public-private partnership that could help make those things a reality.

And officials are asking community members whether they are interested in participating through crowdfunding. Residents could give a few dollars, whatever they want to donate, to a project and the borough could treat the money as matching funds for work that can’t be completed with tax dollars alone.

“The great thing about crowdfunding is that residents can back projects that they’re truly in favor of and excited about,” borough planning staff member Meagan Tuttle said in an email.

It’s a new concept for the borough, but one that’s becoming increasingly popular with nonprofits and municipalities, Tuttle said.

“Tax dollars are limited, and the borough tries to find ways to keep costs lower and find alternative funding sources,” she said. “This typically includes grants and partnerships. Crowdfunding is a new tool that we have seen other municipalities using, and we felt this could be a way for individuals that care about projects in our community to back them.”

A poll on the borough’s website gives residents a chance to say what types of projects they’d like to fund.

Residents can rank three options for possible funding:

• A mobile app for biking information in the Centre Region;

• Improvements to neighborhood parks; and

• The installation of public art in the downtown.

Tuttle said the public art option are projects envisioned in the downtown master plan, including treatments on Calder Way and the 100 block of South Allen Street and the construction of public space at the corner of West Beaver Avenue and South Fraser Street.

“In general, these elements would help to enhance the character and attractiveness of downtown and make it a more inviting place in which people want to engage,” she said.

The parks improvement option stems from a neighborhood plan the borough has been developing. Staff has heard recommendations from community members that they would like to see new playground equipment, improved amenities in parks and better maintenance.

Other ideas could someday be on the table if the program proves successful, but for now the borough wants to stick to the ideas being put forward in the poll during this first round.

Few respondents to the poll had chosen the fourth option as of Monday; one indicating they would not be willing to donate.

Some residents who participated, however, suggested donating time, services or materials instead of money.

“Another thing that we’ve seen on the poll is that people are interested in donating their time and talents to these projects either in addition to or instead of money,” Tuttle said. “This seems to be a good indication that these are projects that people are excited about.”

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

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