State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Borough Council Continues Discussion of Possible New High-Rise

by on March 07, 2017 11:25 AM

State College Borough Council on Monday discussed possible provisions as it considers the conditional use application for a proposed new downtown high-rise.

A public hearing was held Feb. 13 on the proposed The Residences at College and Atherton, a 12-story, 447,000 square foot building that would occupy nearly the entire block of West College Avenue between South Burrowes Street and South Atherton Street. It would have three levels of underground parking.

The project is being developed by Collegiate Development Group (CDG) of St. Louis.

On Monday, borough solicitor Terry Williams presented a list of possible conditions discussed by council following the hearing. They included fixed windows so that items can't be thrown onto the street and no balconies. He said CDG could be required to provide assistance with pedestrian control on Atherton Street and conduct a traffic study with a focus on entrance and exit to the building's parking facility, with potential entrance on College Avenue and exit on West Calder Way.

Other conditions included a special provision to prohibit windows of the commercial spaces slated for the first two floors from being blocked by signage and possibly redesigning the building to provide step-backs that would "reduce the imposing facade along Atherton."

At the public hearing the issue of air quality impacts from Penn State's West Campus Steam Plant on the building site and ground below was discussed at length.

John Carter of air quality and wind engineering group CPP, gave testimony on the air quality study conducted for CDG. He said the study found that if built there would be an increase in pollution at ground level but that it would still be within standards.

State College resident and environmental consultant Mark Huncik, however, said the CPP study did not account for two additional boilers at the steam plant as well as background air quality and was incomplete.

Williams said the two reports were "irreconcilable," and on a motion from council member Theresa Lafer, council agreed to find another consultant to review the issue. Williams said CDG will be asked to pay for the review.

Council member Evan Myers said there is a larger issue with the location of the steam plant.

"From a meteorology standpoint… the prevailing winds may push that plume over toward The Metropolitan (currently being built across the street) and this new development," said Myers, who is chief operating officer at AccuWeather. "The wind direction can change and blow that pollution into other areas."

He said the borough shouldn't have to alter its zoning because Penn State decided to keep the power plant in its location on North Burrowes Street.

"It’s because the university decided to double down and put that power plant there and convert it from coal to gas instead of moving it someplace else and now we’re going to pay the price for it, or we could, by having to change all our zoning. And that’s wrong," he said. "The university needs to change and move the power plant out of the way, not... cause us to totally alter the way our zoning is going to be in town and have folks who live not only in those buildings but in the neighborhoods be fearful of the pollution and the radioactivity of the gas being put out. They don’t seem to care about that or participate in that discussion, and again I think that’s wrong."

Lafer agreed with Myers.

"I agree with Evan that it is incumbent on the university to think about where it is as part of the community," Lafer said. "But it is not thinking about that and I don’t want us all to have to literally, let alone figuratively, hold our breath until they do. I would say that we do need to make this part of any of our ordinances and zoning as we define them."

Council member Cathy Dauler added that CDG should be required to contribute to pedestrian control on Atherton Street, which she said is part of a larger plan to reduce accidents the borough has had on hold.

Though not part of the application discussion, borough planning director Ed LeCLear said the planning commission has discussed asking CDG to change the color of the panels on the building, which appear as lime green in the preliminary land development plan.

Council initially had 45 days from the public hearing to make a decision on the permit application, but Williams said CDG has agreed to an extension and council now has until May 30 to decide.

Borough manager Tom Fountaine said council members would be provided with findings of fact in advance of a vote in May.

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