In State College, Penn State students influence a lot — even the way buildings can be built.
A quick glance at the new high-rises in the downtown will reveal that there are no balconies, a staple in the older "Beaver Canyon" buildings.
Ed LeClear, the borough's planning director, said there's no balcony prohibition in the zoning code. The move to prohibit balconies usually occurs during the conditional use process for the taller buildings because of experience with riots.
The conditional use process is tied to the Signature Project Overlay, which at this point, is basically in the eastern part of downtown, LeClear said — though the same process was used for the 12-story Metropolitan on the western side of downtown. So it's not that the balcony discussion comes into it because the buildings are seven stories or taller; it's that those buildings can only be built in that district.
The conditional use process was put in place to allow for greater building height and density, but it also means that State College Borough Council can attach conditions — and the balcony prohibition is one that the council almost universally attaches, he said.
He anticipates that when the borough does its comprehensive zoning rewrite, a balcony prohibition will be included in the code.
For the most part, student housing development companies have eliminated balconies for the high-rises because they've had "so many problems with them."
Something else that's changed is being able to have operable windows.
And LeClear said that's been a "somewhat contentious" issue in front of council because it can be a challenge with how buildings are built and the HVAC systems that are used.
"The concern has always been projectiles, and unfortunately we have had some history of people falling out of windows as well and off balconies so that’s the other issue," he said.
Other focuses in residential buildings for students include building managers living on-site and the livability of spaces.
"Our council really is about making sure it’s liveable, not just fitting as many bodies in as possible," borough communications specialist Douglas Shontz said.