They exist only as giant holes in the ground right now, but in time those empty pits will become two of the most visible buildings in State College.
Final development plans have either been submitted or are awaiting approval for the Fraser Centre and the Metropolitan, a pair of multi-story, mixed-use high-rises planned a very short distance from each other. And both projects are expected to be completed in the same time frame.
The land-development plan for the Fraser Centre is expected to be completed very soon, developer Gary Brandeis said. Approval of the plan was delayed due to a need for state Department of Transportation approval to work along East Beaver Avenue.
“As you can imagine, PennDOT is a large bureaucratic agency,” Brandeis said, “and getting things through PennDOT can be challenging.”
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PennDOT approval came through about two weeks ago, he said, then the final land development plan was submitted to the State College borough. This was the final checkoff point for the borough to approve the plan.
For now, site work has been done, he said. This allows for the demolition of existing structures and the excavation of the site. Approval of a final development plan allows for the issuance of a zoning permit and a footings and foundation permit, which allows workers to begin pouring concrete for a foundation.
“Once we have the foundation permit in hand,” he said, “we will have the permits to finish the infrastructure and foundation work.”
The overall plans for the center remain the same, Brandeis said — a Hyatt hotel will occupy part of the building, with residential condominiums and retail space. No retail leases have been signed yet, he said, so he couldn’t comment on what stores might occupy the retail space.
“I would like to (comment), but retailers can be very finicky,” he said. “So until you have a signed document that says we’re all committed to each other, who knows what’s going to happen.”
A majority of the construction is expected to be completed by summer 2016, he said. The goal is to open the retail spaces by that fall, with the hotel and condos soon to follow.
The foundation work is expected to be wrapped up by early spring if the weather cooperates, he said. Work will go vertical after that, with cranes creating the skeleton of the building by late spring.
A webcam has been mounted on the side of the Fraser Street parking garage by permission of the borough, Brandeis said. Visitors to the Fraser Centre website, www.frasercentre.com, can watch the construction in real time.
Despite numerous attempts, Metropolitan developer Ara Kervandjian did not return calls for comment about that project. According to State College borough planner Ed LeClear, the project has final plan approval, so on-site excavation has begun.
The borough will make some final inspections, he said, but right now it is much more an issue of making sure the building is being built correctly.
Centre Region Code Administration Director Walt Schneider said a footing and foundations permit has been issued for the Metropolitan in order to put in the foundation system. An application for the rest of the building permit has been submitted.
Kervandjian said previously that the first floor of the building will be dedicated to retail space with student housing filling the next seven floors and general occupancy for the remaining two and a half floors.
The project is slated for completion by the beginning of the academic year of 2016, he has said.