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Borough Council Hears Plans for Downtown State College High Rise

by on January 15, 2020 8:03 PM

At a conditional use permit public hearing on Monday, developers detailed plans for the new 12-story mixed use high rise proposed for the corner of East College Avenue and Hetzel Street in downtown State College.

Chicago-based Core Spaces submitted a preliminary development plan in November for the 151-foot tall building, which will have two floors of retail and office space and 10 floors of apartments, as previously reported by StateCollege.com.

Properties at 472, 480, 482, 484 E. College Ave.; 108, 110, 112, 114 Hetzel Street; and 471 E. Calder Way would be demolished. Those addresses are currently within four buildings and include Garden House apartments, Eddie's Bicycles and Hockey Equipment, George's Floral Boutique, Gio's Hair Design, Pizza Mia, other apartments and a one-story house on Calder. 

Apartments and retail

Jeff Zelisko, design architect with Antunovich Associates, said the first two floors of the new will have 36,448 square feet of retail and office space. The first floor will be predominantly retail, while the second floor could be retail or office and will also have five apartment units. The remaining 10 floors will have 13 apartments each for a total of 135 units, including a mix of one-, two-, four- and five-bedroom apartments accommodating a total of 493 beds. The total residential floor area is 181,318 square feet.

Apartments will not have balconies. While in the past council also has required that windows in new high rises be fixed, Core Spaces plans to have operable windows, but with a 4-inch limiter.

"We think if the windows are limited like that the exposure to the exterior is extremely minor," Zelisko said.

The roof will have a pool terrace, set back so that it does not have a view to the street and cannot be seen from the street, Zelisko said.

Apartments will be marketed not only to Penn State undergraduates, but professionals and non-students and graduate students, said Chip Schell Core Spaces vice president of new business.

"That’s not to say we’re not going to have undergraduates in there but we do make a very concerted effort to market to the broader market as a whole," Schell said.

Two properties currently being developed by Core Spaces near large public universities but in larger cities — Tempe, Arizona and Portland, Oregon— have begun leasing and have a mix of students and non-students. Schell said the Portland building has about 70 percent non-students and in Tempe about 30 percent non-students. 

Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said she does not believe in the State College market professionals or young families will want to live in a building filled with students.

"And the students aren’t going to want them there," she said. "I have been credibly told by some of my own students in classes that they do not like sharing their buildings with permanent residents."

Candice Bradley, president of State College Young Professionals, said that in recent years apartments in new buildings have been marketed to her organization's members, but they can almost never afford to rent them.

"I would urge the council as well as these organizations — who I’m sure are very competent organizations —just to have a more realistic perspective about affordability with young professionals, because we’re the future of this community and to get us to stay requires us to have affordable housing where we can feel like adults and professionals and be able to afford a future in this community."

 

Garden House Apartments, 472 E. College Ave., and the building housing Eddie's Bicycles and Hockey Equipment, George's Floral Boutique and Gio's Hair Design would be among those demolished for a new 12-story high rise at East College Avenue and Hetzel Street. Photo by Geoff Rushton/StateCollege.com

Wide sidewalks, underground parking

The new building will have a street-level setback greater than the required minimum of 25 feet.

"It really pays off in wider sidewalks which make a great improvement for the streetscape," Zelisko said, adding that the streetscape will include maple trees along College Avenue and honey locusts along Hetzel.

Three levels of underground parking will have 172 spaces, including nine for patrons of the commercial tenants. The initial requirement for the building would be 365, but the developer qualifies for incentive reductions for having underground parking, meeting or exceeding the 25-foot setback minimum and having the building be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.

While the parking meets the minimum, Lafer said she does not believe it's enough and could cause issues for the borough and the building's tenants.

"I don’t know that there’s anyway you can increase the amount of parking," she said. "But I do see that as a problem for you.  Move-in days will be a horror under those circumstances...The parking spaces or the lack thereof does concern me."

Artist's rendering of the 12-story mixed use building proposed for the corner of East College Avenue and Hetzel Street, viewed from west to east on College Avenue. Image: Antunovich Associates/Core Spaces via State College Borough

Affordable housing requirements

Core Spaces will pay an in-lieu fee to meet the borough's affordable housing requirement, which calls for either the fee or 10 percent of all new units to be designated inclusionary. The developer will pay a rate of $129,000 per unit for 13.5 units, a total of $1,741,500, borough Planning Director Ed LeClear said.

"Those funds are contributed to the [affordable] housing program at the borough and we then use them to subsidize income-qualified buyers at scattered site locations around the borough," LeClear said. "These are typically for owner-occupied housing and we work with our two housing nonprofits (Housing Transitions and State College Community Land Trust). We’re currently working on some rental housing as well that those funds will be available for."

In response to a question from Councilman Peter Marshall, LeClear said that overall in the borough, about 4,200 beds will have been added from new apartment construction between August 2017 and 2022. That period starts with the opening of The Rise, 532 E. College Ave. and includes all projects that have recorded land development plans or are going through the permitting process. It does not include other Centre Region construction, which LeClear estimated would add another 3,000 to 5,000 apartment beds. 

Core Spaces' proposed building is in the Signature Development Area of the Commercial Incentive District, which allows for additional stories and residential floor area if it is approved for conditional use and meets additional zoning requirements. A conditional use permit is not approval of a land development plan but is a necessary step in the process. 

Greg Garthe, borough planning and zoning officer, said that the developer has met or is working toward meeting all of the criteria for a conditional use. Borough Solicitor Terry Williams will prepare a written decision on the conditional use for council to review at its Feb. 2 meeting and it will be considered for approval on March 3.

Storm water management, traffic impact and signage were not a required part of the preliminary plan submission or the conditional use criteria but will be a component of the final plan submission, Garthe said.

The State College Design Review Board received the preliminary plan in December and found the building façade meets required standards. Planning commission also reviewed the plans and generally supported the building design while agreeing it met zoning requirements.

Core Spaces also recently made another move into the State College market, purchasing five apartment buildings in the Beaver Canyon area in October. The company plans on "refreshing many aspects of the buildings and modernizing the apartments,” a Core Spaces representative said at the time.


Artist's rendering of the 12-story mixed use building proposed for the corner of East College Avenue and Hetzel Street, viewed from Hetzel Street and Calder Way. Image: Antunovich Associates/Core Spaces via State College Borough



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