Centre County reached an agreement with a development company Tuesday, clearing the way to connect the Courthouse Annex and Temple Court Building.
The county will pay Progress Development Group nearly $14,000 to purchase a 10-foot-by-140-foot portion of the former Hotel Do De property. The deal also includes a construction easement for the remainder of the year and reimbursement for architectural fees incurred by PDG to alter its project.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Steve Dershem said working out a deal and exchanging money was a good way to complete the acquisition because it keeps both parties on good terms.
“I think it makes for a better neighborly relationship, doing it this way,” he said.
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The commissioners hope construction begins on the new entrance and building connection by the summer to ensure it’s completed by the end of the year. The addition would connect all floors of the two buildings and create a new High Street entrance that will be better for transporting witnesses or victims from the main courthouse, Dershem said.
County officials will work with Bellefonte borough to create a path through High Street and possibly add trees and planters.
Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said the Historical Architecture Review Board already has reviewed the preliminary plans, and the council is expected to perform its preliminary review Monday. He said the council requested to see the plans early to address any problems during the project’s beginning stages.
Moving additional offices to Temple Court is expected to free up space to put an additional courtroom in the main courthouse, which some judges have requested, Commissioner Chris Exarchos added.
Accepting the deal also could put PDG managing member Ara Kervandjian in the county’s good graces when it comes to affordable housing funding.
Kervandjian has requested the county’s Act 137 funding, which is designated for affordable housing projects, and both Exarchos and Commissioner Michael Pipe said they likely will look favorably on that request. The Act 137 funding comes from fees for recording mortgages and deeds and is allocated to specific projects by county boards of commissioners.
Pipe said he would make decisions based on recommendations from the county planning staff, who thoroughly research any project.
“It also would also be relying on their expertise and experience in terms of how they dealt with funding affordable housing projects in the past, and if this would be an acceptable use of the funds,” he said.
Now that the deal is complete, the county must move quickly to continue with the project. After creating new deeds for the land and bidding the work, construction can begin.
Dershem said the county will continue to be on an accelerated timetable so everything can be finished by year’s end and give Kervandjian time to begin his plans for his affordable housing complex.
“We’ve got to get out of there by the end of the year one way or another,” he said. “It’s a pretty heavy push for us and that’s why we’ve been working as hard as we can, and have to make sure we get this wrapped up, so we can get it out to bid and get this project moving.”