State College

Boutique hotel, rooftop restaurant: Here’s what could happen on South Allen Street

Redevelopment plans for the 200 block of South Allen Street, including where the Happy Valley Launchbox building is located, were recently presented to State College Borough Council and Planning Commission.
Redevelopment plans for the 200 block of South Allen Street, including where the Happy Valley Launchbox building is located, were recently presented to State College Borough Council and Planning Commission. adrey@centredaily.com

A vision for what the 200 block of South Allen Street — State College Town Centre — could look like after redevelopment was presented to State College Borough Council and Planning Commission on Oct. 8.

The history of the Town Centre project dates back to 2006, when the State College Borough Redevelopment Authority was created. In 2007, the borough purchased the property at 224 S. Allen St. Then in 2015, the Allen Street Civic District was created, and the Allen Street Civic District Redevelopment Plan was adopted by the planning commission.

The Allen Street Civic District includes five parcels — the U.S. Postal Service building, the First National Bank drive-thru, the former Verizon building (224 S. Allen St.), the Allen Street parking lot and the current Verizon building.

“Being local, we had the advantage of being able to meet with really a wide variety of stakeholders and what we saw was just really so much enthusiasm in the community to do something here that would be transformative,” Alex Sahakian, president of Highland Holding Group, said at the Oct. 8 State College borough council and planning commission joint work session.

Highland is the State College Borough Redevelopment Authority’s approved developer for the Town Centre project.

Sahakian presented to borough council and planning commission a plan for two of the parcels in the district.

The plan for the first site — the 32-space parking lot next to Cozy Thai — includes a 60-room boutique hotel with a 75-space underground parking structure; a lobby cafe and bar with outdoor seating on Allen Street, meeting rooms and other lobby amenities; 10 two-bedroom and two efficiency apartments; a rooftop restaurant with an outdoor rooftop deck; and amenities like fitness and meetings spaces.

The apartments would most likely be condos for sale to owner-occupants. Sahakian said Highland is willing to include deed restrictions so that student housing uses would be prohibited.

The second site plan — 224 S. Allen St., where Happy Valley Launchbox is located (though it is already planning to relocate) — includes a 7,000-square-foot restaurant incubator/food hall on the ground floor; 15,000 square feet of space dedicated to community uses (such as Discovery Space); and 8,000 square feet of co-working or office space.

It’s Highland’s hope that council will take the required action to approve the proposed redevelopment plan and transfer the borough-owned parcels to the RDA in order for the redevelopment to commence. The purchase price for these parcels would be $1.8 million based on borough appraisal.

If council takes that action, Highland proposes two years to purchase the property and then three years from the end of the purchase option period to complete construction.

This is a “critical juncture” to try to move to the next step, Sahakian said.

The post office and FNB sites are not currently on the table. Sahakian said Highland has had conversations with them, but they’ve been hypothetical discussions — the purchase option would give Highland the ability to go to them with concrete proposals.

Additionally, redeveloping the current Verizon site would be almost impossible to cost justify, he said, due to the amount of fiber optic and copper wiring that terminates there that would need to be relocated. It’s literally the hub of all the phone and data wire in State College.

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