State College

State College Planning Commission considers collegiate housing overlay for east end

Kildare’s Irish Pub is located in the east end of downtown State College, the area planners are considering for  collegiate housing overlay.
Kildare’s Irish Pub is located in the east end of downtown State College, the area planners are considering for collegiate housing overlay. Centre Daily Times

The borough Planning Commission revisited the proposed collegiate housing overlay Wednesday with a text ordinance outlining the requirements and incentives that would be available within the zone on the east end of downtown.

The ordinance was drafted as three parts, planner Ed LeClear said, covering base requirements, incentives and conditional uses for the block facing East College Avenue between Hetzel Street and High Street.

“One of the overarching agreements that we’ve heard in terms of priorities is to get a well-designed building on that site,” LeClear said. “We have to push those design requirements and conditional use.”

Under the proposed overlay, buildings must provide a commercial space on the first floor in order to be eligible for maximum height and floor space, according to the ordinance. These maximums include a height of seven stories and a floor area ratio of four.

Floor area ratios, or FARs, control the total development area of a property. On a 10,000-square-foot area, an FAR of four would allow for 4,000 square feet to be developed.

Several incentives are included with the ordinance, allowing a developer to go beyond the maximums in exchange for certain amenities. For example, an additional floor of commercial space would allow for an additional floor and one FAR, and a green building — one that follows certain energy and environmental designs – would gain an additional story, one FAR and a 20 percent parking reduction.

With certain bonuses, the building could be constructed to 10 stories with a FAR of five and one parking reduction incentive.

Under conditional use, if three of four bonuses — a second floor of commercial space, a green building, underground parking and at least two levels of structured parking above ground — the building height raises to 11 stories with a FAR of six and two parking reduction incentives.

Non-owner occupied rental space can also increase to 11 stories with an additional FAR by dedicating two floors of the building to professional/graduate housing.

Jeff Haas, who owns the property leased by Kildare’s at 538 E. College Ave., opposed a portion of the ordinance dictating the number of bedrooms and the occupancy of certain rooms, saying markets change and the property owner should have the right to change spaces in the building based on demand.

He also opposed a stepback requirement, which stated that for every 45 feet of building height, it must step back from the curb a certain distance.

“You are absolutely destroying everything else that you've put together in the text amendment,” he said, “because you're shooting for a needle building and nobody's going to do it.”

A motion by Jon Eich requesting the removal of the stepback requirement was approved by the commission.

Eich also argued that if the owner must execute a covenant with the borough to assure continuation of amenities, why must they dictate the layout of the floors, saying, “Let the market dictate.”

The commission plans to revisit the ordinance at a future meeting.

Kildare’s general manager Lincoln Stuyvesant said the bar has a long-term lease with Haas and has been told they would be invited into the ground floor commercial space if a new building is developed.