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Borough Council Considers Conditional Use Permit for Proposed Garner Street Lot High-Rise

by on January 09, 2018 1:02 PM

State College Borough Council on Monday heard from developers and planning staff about plans for a proposed new high-rise that would occupy the site of the current Garner Street Parking Lot.

The 12-story, 145-feet tall mixed-use development would consolidate the parcels at 130 South Garner Street, 345 E. Beaver Ave., and 119, 129 and 131 Heister Street. The project is being developed by CA Student Living -- developers of The Rise, which is under construction at 532 E. College Ave.-- along with property owners the Friedman family and Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

Penn State Hillel had been planning a new community center for the portion of the property adjacent to Beaver Avenue. That would be incorporated into the new building on the first two floors of the Beaver Avenue side.

Total square footage of the development, including exterior space and underground parking, is 529,387 square feet, with the first two floors designated for commercial and retail and the remaining 10 floors for residential.

Residential space totaling 258,245 square feet would include 247 units with 824 beds -- a mix of studio, 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom apartments. The plans also include 16,096 square feet of space for amenities. Retail and commercial space on each side of the building would total more than 30,000 square feet.

Preliminary plans were submitted to the borough in November.

Dan Hrankowsky of CA Student Living said local partners' involvement was integral to developing the project and that it provides a unique opportunity.

"Given the breadth of view we have nationally, we do feel like this one of the finest, if not the finest, opportunities to capitalize on a mixed-use opportunity in a university context like this," he said. "Calder Way is very unique and I feel like it has taken organic baby steps that have evolved it to where it is today. I don’t think many opportunities exist out there where you have disparate parcels or as many pieces of land contiguously to really capitalize on an opportunity like this. It really did involve local know-how."

A monumental staircase would lead up from Calder Way through the center of the building to a central courtyard and the second level of retail space. Hrankowsky said the plan is to create a "vital pedestrian feel." 

In addition to the staircase, cutaways are built into other areas of the building to break up its massiveness.

The Garner Street Lot is phase one of a potential two-phase project. The second phase would involve redeveloping the block of East College Avenue between Garner and Heister with the staircase continuing down to College Avenue and adjoining the two phases to form a single campus.

Phase two is not part of the current application, and phase one is "self-sustainable," Hrankowsky said, and can be developed even if phase two is never built.

Jonathan Friedman, one of the property owners, said that some of the retail areas in the proposed Garner Street building would be divided into spaces up to 1,200 square feet for smaller, family-owned businesses. The intent for the courtyard area is to have the feel of a "European arcade" or Seattle's Pike Place Market, he said.

"No offense to the people on the T-shirt and pizza side of things, but our intent is to make this a 12-month space, not a 9-month space and make this a space everyone can utilize," Friedman said. "With that comes the retail portions of this where there will be restaurants and experience-based things, but also the hope is to bring in these smaller sized things so we can continue to grow local businesses."

Entry and exit to the underground parking garage, which would have the required 280 parking spaces, would be from Heister, according to Jonathan Baron, architect with Sheply Bulfinch, who designed the plans.

The project does not have inclusionary housing units and instead the required units would be provided at another site to be determined or developers would pay an in-lieu of fee, as stipulated by the borough's inclusionary housing ordinance.

Council member Theresa Lafer said she would like to see the developers provide "a clear statement of intent" for how they will handle the inclusionary housing provisions.

Lafer and Council President Evan Myers also expressed concerns about pedestrian safety and suggested that planned landscaping be placed between the road and walking paths, particularly along Garner Street. Myers added that he would like to see a pedestrian impact study.

Overall, Lafer said she believes the building plans are "very attractive."

Council also discussed outdoor spaces on upper floors. While no balconies are planned for apartments, an outdoor terrace above the second floor of the Hillel center is in the design. That would be accessible to Hillel and apartment residents.

A rooftop common area with a pool is also in the plans. The pool would be closer to the Calder Street frontage, Hrankowsky said, but would be set back about 20 feet and would be blocked off by a wall that extends about 12 feet.

Anne Messner, borough planner and zoning officer, said the Design and Historic Review Board reviewed the planned façade for the building and agreed it met standards. Planning commission has supported the design as proposed to date.

Council is expected to vote on the conditional use permit on Feb. 5. If approved, it would set forth the conditions developers need to meet as they work toward final land development plans, which would ultimately require council's approval.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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