State College

Planning Commission weighs State College redevelopment

The Planning Commission is in favor of certifying a small section of the downtown for redevelopment, avoiding a larger redevelopment project that some feared could eventually stall.

The Planning Commission has the ability to certify an area as a redevelopment area, planner Meagan Tuttle said. This is defined as an area that “may find blighted” because of of unsafe conditions, inadequate planning of the area or economically undesirable land uses.

The area initially targeted for redevelopment was designated the Fairmount Civic District, the several-block area from West Beaver Avenue to West Fairmont Avenue between South Allen Street and South Fraser Street. The area had initially been evaluated for redevelopment in 2007, Tuttle said, due to a defective arrangement of buildings.

Certifying for redevelopment could foster public-private partnerships, she said, and help the borough respond to initiatives proposed by property owners.

The recommendation for redevelopment was broken into three phases, she said: certify an area called the Allen Street Civic District — the area between West Beaver and where West Foster Avenue meets Sidney Friedman Park — based on downtown master plan recommendations; place the potential Fairmount extension on the 2016 work program for discussion; before finally considering other downtown redevelopment opportunities.

Member Zoe Boniface indicated the area for redevelopment included the post office on South Fraser and if redevelopment included that property.

Tuttle said the property was purchased by the post office earlier this year. She doesn’t believe they are interested in redevelopment, but the opportunity for a partnership further down the road is possible.

The post office is a huge asset, she said, but might not be in the best location to facilitate traffic. In the future, it could possibly redevelop as a multistory building with first floor commercial, non student housing with underground parking.

Chairman Michael Roeckel said he was concerned with focusing on just the Allen Street district, saying if the focus was on developing that area solely due to the Verizon Building property, then nothing else will be redeveloped.

Senior Planner Ed LeClear said it comes down to an issue of time. If the borough is going to look forward to redevelop areas and hold onto Discovery Space, it needs to move quickly.

As planners, they can look at the broader area, he said, but they need to recognize redevelopment as a process that needs input and takes time.

The remaining board members agreed they would prefer to consider redeveloping a small area first before tackling a larger section.

A community open house and project kick-off will be held in the lobby of the borough municipal building from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuttle said. Residents can view project updates at redevelopmentplan and provide input through engagesc.