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Affordable Housing Plans Move Step Closer to Reality

by on April 30, 2015 6:30 AM

State College is one step closer to having a new affordable housing development near downtown.

On Wednesday, the State College Planning Commission approved the final plans for a development at 1311 South Atherton Street that will combine workforce housing and a new drive-through coffee shop. 

The plans call for 12 two-bedroom apartments above a first floor commercial space, complete with a drive-through around the back of the building.

Developer Ara Kervandijan of the Progress Development Group says that the first floor is planned to house a new coffee shop, but he declined to give any details about negotiations with possible tenants. 

PDG, along with PennTerra Engineering, are designing the new apartment building in conjunction with the larger Metropolitan project at the corner of College Avenue and Atherton Street. A State College ordinance requires developers to create both affordable and market-rate apartments, so the two firms are bringing new life to the empty lot, formerly the site of a gas station.

The plans went through some minor modifications since they first appeared before the planning commission in January. At the suggestion of the planning commission and borough staffers, the plans were updated to be more aesthetically pleasing and include more diverse plant life.

However, some members of the public and the planning commission still had some worries about how the development might impact traffic on one of State College’s busiest roads.

Commission member Jon Eich noted that the turn onto Pugh Street was very close to the entrances and exits to the 1311 South Atherton lot, which could possibly cause trouble with Atherton Street’s “considerable amount of traffic.”

Fellow commission member Scott Dutt also wondered if the drive-through coffee shop idea could cause problems by backing up traffic out of the lot and onto the street. He used the Starbucks on North Atherton Street as an example, claiming that traffic can often get backed up when the shop gets busy.

PennTerra engineer Chad Stafford noted that both the borough and PennDOT conducted traffic impact studies and accepted the plans, with the exception of a few minor technical details. He also said that one of the two entrances to the lot would be restricted during peak hours, which might help alleviate some traffic troubles.

State College resident Janet Engeman -- who is currently running for State College Borough Council – said she feels the two planned handicap parking spaces are “inadequate” for a space with both residential and commercial uses.

The plans, along with notes from the commission and public, were passed along to borough council for final approval. A tentative construction timeline for the development was not provided, and PDG representatives could not be reached for further comment.


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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