Borough staff will begin work on the future of the 224 S. Allen St., known as the Verizon building, following a vote of approval Monday by the Borough Council Monday.
Council was presented with three options for moving forward with the property, as well as options for including the neighboring First National Bank drive-through property and the Allen Street parking lot in the development.
The borough purchased the building in 2007 with the intent of turning the property over to the Discovery Space museum, according to previous reports. Currently, the Verizon building is leased to Penn State as extra office space through October.
The borough has been in conversations with Discovery Space, planner Meagan Tuttle said, and have been able to renew their lease at their West Foster Avenue location for another year.
“This allowed us the opportunity to continue talking to the Discovery Space board about options for the Verizon building site and options for redevelopment,” she said. “The board president indicated Discovery Space is willing to look at redevelopment options with us as long as we continue to advance the process in the manner that helps them make decisions in the future.”
Discovery Space needs an indication of its involvement in any redevelopment plans by fall, she said.
The board was presented with three options for redevelopment of the property. A transformative option would involve the redevelopment of 222 and 224 S. Allen St. as well as the Allen Street parking lot, Tuttle said. This would allow for a continued partnership with Penn State during development as well as provide access to non-profits or community groups to move into desirable downtown spaces. This option would involve the highest amount of borough involvement and investment.
A visionary option acts as a scaled-back version of the first option, she said, with development of 222 and 224 S. Allen St. only, still allowing partnership opportunities but focusing only on the properties. A final expedited option would pursue only the Verizon property, providing the least economic involvement of the borough, but also diminishing opportunities in the long run.
Most council members preferred the transformative option, as Mayor Elizabeth Goreham said it provided the most flexibility.
“I think (having) Discovery Space and working with them is a positive,” Councilman Evan Myers said. “While we have to look at other nonprofits, Discovery Space is already downtown. It’s kind of an anchor.”
Working on the properties as a whole would help create more of a town center, he said, grouping the Verizon and FNB properties with the library.
“If we approach in a piecemeal way, we would regret that,” he said. “I don’t think we should take any half measures.”
The board approved the transformative approach in a 5-1 vote. Councilman Tom Daubert voted no.
The next step, Tuttle said, is for staff to begin working with the redevelopment authority and Planning Commission to begin taking public input and developing a request for proposal for potential developers.