Bellefonte moves to expedite county project

The Bellefonte Borough Council approved an agreement with Centre County at its meeting Monday that will save time in a proposed Courthouse Annex and Temple Court project, Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said.

The county now is exempt from submitting a land use development plan, which would have mostly been a duplication of the lot addition plan that already was submitted, Stewart said. The deal also is beneficial for Bellefonte because it will save the county time and make sure they are done by the time developer Ara Kervandjian is ready to build on the former Hotel Do De and Garman Theatre lots.

“We do feel that it was a compromise, and it keeps the county on schedule with what they need to do,” he said. “And hopefully we can get the gap filled in between the Do De and the Garman sooner rather than later.”

County plans for the site include a 10-foot addition that connects the Courthouse Annex and the Temple Court Building and creates a High Street entrance to the complex. Stewart said one reason the council agreed to waive the submission of the land development plan was because they are not doing much new construction, changing stormwater runoff plans or running new sewer or water lines to the facility.

The design plan still must go through the normal avenues, getting the go-ahead from the Historical Architectural Review Board and the council before construction can begin. County officials have said they want to break ground in the summer to be finished by the end of the year.

The Board of Commissioners also wants to add a more defined path from the main courthouse to the new complex with planters and a walkways across High Street.

Stewart said the council is debating the streetscape portion of the project, and it has been referred to the streets committee for further review.

The Do De and Garman lots have been vacant since demolition, which ended earlier this year. Both of the former buildings were badly damaged in a 2012 fire.

Kervandjian and his company, Progress Development Group, plan to redevelop the lot and fire-damaged Cadillac Building to create 32-units of workforce housing apartments. His project is reliant on tax credits, which he will know if he gets this summer.

Commissioner’s Chairman Steve Dershem thanked Borough Council for its work at the board meeting Tuesday. He said the commissioners and the county planning staff appreciates the extra effort Bellefonte officials have put in to make the project work.