Downtown Bellefonte development nears completion

Construction continues on the Bellefonte Mews project at 116 E. High St. in Bellefonte.
Construction continues on the Bellefonte Mews project at 116 E. High St. in Bellefonte.

If you build it, they will come.

It’s the hope of developers behind the Bellefonte Mews project, which will add affordable housing to the borough.

The project is on schedule to be completed and ready to be leased in the summer. It will house 21 one- and two-bedroom units in the Garman House building at 116 E. High St. and 11 two- and three-bedroom units in the Cadillac House building at the corner of Allegheny and Bishop streets.

“We are very excited and are proud about the Bellefonte Mews project,” Bellefonte Mews and developer Ara Kervandjian’s spokesman Vinh Vuong said. “It has been a long time in the making, and the project will add 32 new units to the affordable housing inventory in Centre County.”

Fires destroyed the buildings, both historic landmarks, several years ago.

The Cadillac Building was gutted by a fire in 2009, leaving its shell behind and the families that lived there without a home. Another fire, ruled the work of an arsonist, destroyed the Garman Opera House and neighboring Hotel Do De in 2012, which also claimed housing.

Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said the redevelopment is welcome after four major fires in the past decade cost the town affordable housing.

“As we said some time ago, there is need for affordable, workforce housing,” Stewart said. “If you want to buy a home in the area, prices can be relatively high, so having more affordable units that are nice add a lot of value for a living in the area.”

The process to develop the project, however, was met with criticism from some in the community. Demolishing the theater wasn’t an option to some people.

“I do hope if they weren’t in favor of it before that they understand the positives now,” Stewart said. “We’ve stressed that this is workforce housing, and that it’s going to be run well. This process did save a historic building, the Cadillac, which was burned and gutted and looked like it could just be demolished and that would be the end. It wasn’t. It was saved, and it has a lot of historical significance.”

Vuong said the development is in an ideal location, touting the area’s access to public transportation, businesses, schools and parks.

Each building’s units are designed with “energy-efficient appliances,” faux wood plank flooring and marble sills. The Cadillac building will feature a community room with a kitchen and recreation room. There will also be on-site laundry facilities.

Vuong said developers partnered with the Behavioral Health Alliance of Rural Pennsylvania to offer four 811 PRA units. The 811 program provides housing to disabled people younger than 61 years old.

Atherton Place, another Ara Kervandjian project at 1311 S. Atherton St., was also recently completed. One of the 12 units in the building is available.

Each building will be managed by Property Management Inc., which opened a leasing office at 120 W. Bishop St. in Bellefonte.

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli