State College

Ferguson Township leaders weigh redevelopment plan for West College Avenue

The Board of Supervisors and residents got a glimpse of what could become of the West College Avenue corridor, but some residents are still sour on the idea of excessive commercial development in a residential area.

Five Penn State students in the Smeal College of Business’ Applied Professional Experience program put weeks of research and design into creating what could become the terraced streetscape district — the section of West College between South Buckhout Street and Blue Course Drive.

The program is part of the MBA curriculum, student Rick McDonald said. The township approached the school with a description of its desired district along with several other businesses projects, and groups could choose which project they would work on.

The objective of the project was “to create a development strategy consistent with the township’s vision for the district ... that is financially attractive to the district’s property owners and development community,” township Manager Mark Kunkle said.

The plan was developed over several stages, according to the presentation, between researching the terraced streetscape district, engaging stakeholders and analyzing the financial feasibility of the plan.

The district would be broken into two zones, student Lillian Luu said. The first would stretch from Buckhout to South Corl Street and would focus on retail, office and residential real estate.

A maximum of seven floors mixed use would appear along West College, she said, with commercial on the ground floor and residential the rest of the way up. Shorter buildings would be constructed on Butz Street and West Beaver Avenue to provide a seamless transition to State College’s west end neighborhood.

The second district would stretch from South Corl to Blue Course continuing the combination of residental, retail and office space, she said, but with a larger footprint. This would allow a transition toward the other businesses currently on West College.

The presentation gives supervisors a tool to work with to try to get things moving, Supervisor Steve Miller said.

“Really, what it does is it puts down in a more complete form what’s possible with this corridor,” he said. “I think they did an excellent job. It looks like what we’re hoping to see.”

While the presentation was only an idea of what could be, some residents took the opportunity to voice their concerns and to urge rejection of the district itself.

Resident Pamela Steckler, who lives along the corridor, said she and other residents “feel a threat to a quality of life and our enjoyment of home.”

Steckler claims the Board of Supervisors at the time of the district’s adoption ignored the recommendations of the residents and only brought the district to their attention when it was a done deal. She said the residents of the corridor would like to see a development more in character with a quiet neighborhood.

She brought a petition signed by 68 residents requesting a reworking or a full rejection of the terraced streetscape district ordinance, asking for an alternate plan.

Miller countered her claims that the public had no knowledge of the district, saying when he was on the board at the time, the ordinance spent a full year in discussion over many meetings.

“To say it was decided before anyone had any input is not true,” he said.