State College

State College Borough Council gets peek at future Penn State projects

Tulips bloom outside of Old Main in May 2012.
Tulips bloom outside of Old Main in May 2012. CDT file photo

The face of Penn State is ever evolving, frequently unveiling new features, construction and expansions.

To help break down some of the projects slated for its five-year master plan, representatives of the university presented some of its newly minted changes as well as proposed projects and projects under construction Monday to Borough Council.

“We want to give you an idea of what you can expect to see over the next few years as we proceed through the land development process in the coming years for each individual project,” campus Plannng and Design Director Gordon Turow said.

The plan covered the fiscal years of 2013-14 through 2017-18 in terms of current construction, designed projects, projects being planned and beyond.

Turow said campus planning is guided by certain principles, which include land use, character, sustainability and community integration.

“These principles guide the future assignment of university land, establish appropriate adjacencies and overall structure of campus open space,” he said.

While new structures often gain the most attention, he said strategically Penn State focuses on renewal and replacement rather than the creation of new space. The campus currently contains about 20 million square feet of space, which includes building interiors, he said. The master plan identifies opportunities to increase that by 4.5 million square feet through infill, not sprawl.

University planner Steven Watson presented the board with stages of the master plan, indicating where the public can see the plan in action.

Projects either completed or already under construction include the new Beaver Stadium video board and sound system; construction on the Henderson South building; and the completed Stadium West parking expansion.

Projects still in the design phase include a data center for redundant backup systems for disaster recovery, increasing the housing and food service warehouse capacity and renovation of East Halls. In addition, a new residence complex is planned for North Halls.

Some projects still exist only as ideas within the plan, such as extensive renovations to the agriculture engineering building, a new multipurpose classroom building and renovation of the recital hall with construction of new rehearsal spaces.

Council showed continued reservations toward the power plant on West College Avenue and its concern that having a pipeline near so many students and residents does not seem to be in the best interest of the university.

“It is, of course, an industrial building in a site that was probably appropriate 100 years ago, but is definitely not appropriate now,” Councilman Peter Morris said. “Is there any long term plan for getting rid of it?”

Watson told him there are no plans for removing the building. “The conversion to natural gas is going to be part of the energy portfolio for the university for a certain amount of time at least,” he said.