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Downtown Master Plan Proposal Would Focus on People, Not Cars: West College Ave. Could Become One Lane Road

by on April 23, 2013 6:39 AM

The Downtown Master Plan is now focused on developing an area as a “town square” in State College. That was one of the main points of Monday night's presentation at the borough municipal building. Representatives from Mahan Rykiel Associates were on hand to discuss the proposed renovations and field questions from students and residents.

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“We think a real opportunity is the 100 Block of Allen Street. Some of the proposals we are talking about are to keep it as a street but get rid of the curb. We want a design that calls out that it’s pedestrian first and a roadway second, said Tom McGilloway, a project manager for Mahan Rykiel.

There had been talk of making Allen Street pedestrian only, but McGilloway explained that the idea was nixed after examining the poor reception of similar pedestrian-only projects in the United States.

The Downtown Master Plan proposal would involve two steps—Phase I and Phase II—and would tackle four themes: Marketing the District, Branding, Navigating the District and Living in the District.

One of the most striking visual changes for the proposed project is the "branding" element.

“We wanted to add some color. We know that the colors of Penn Stare are blue and white but we added green to represent the region, red to represent the high school, and yellow to round it out,” said McGilloway. The new branding would be on street sides, pamphlets, and advertising.

Perhaps the most drastic change is the "Navigating the District" theme. “We want to look at it as the management of people, not cars,” said McGilloway. They're considering ways to make downtown more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists.

One proposal would change West College Ave. into a one-lane street. According to McGilloway, traffic patterns suggest that one lane could handle the traffic while presenting the opportunity to expand sidewalks on either side.

That would provide enough space to allow outdoor roadside cafés near the street. “Replace the sidewalks with brick to marry it to campus,” said McGilloway. One of the master plan’s goals is to highligt the “town and gown” atmosphere that State College is famous for.

The presentation also tackled several long-term issues related to "Living in the District." McGilloway conceded that with the density of student housing on the east side of town, it would be hard to get young professionals to move there.

Finally the presentation placed an emphasis on events. “The importance of downtown events are critical to a downtown’s success,” explained McGilloway. “You need to get people used to coming downtown.”

McGilloway says the Arts Festival is exactly the type of big, yearly event that downtowns nationwide are looking for, but State College needs to work on smaller, weekly to monthly events that are less focused on out-of-towners.

Mitchell Wilston is a reporter and photographer for Onward State. He has also worked as a freelance journalist for
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