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Fraser Centre Developers Make Pitch to Planning Commission

by on March 27, 2014 9:12 PM

In the next step to make the Fraser Centre a reality, a developer and designers made their pitch to the State College Planning Commission Thursday night.

Gary Brandeis of Real Estate Capital Management is one of the new developers and owners of the site on South Fraser Street. They took over the property in October and says the now vacant lot will be transformed into hotel, retail and residential space.

Brandeis and a design team reviewed the project and addressed questions from the planning commission, including concerns about who will live in the condominiums. Residents and commissioners were worried students would ultimately live in the 26-units.

However, Brandeis says a conditional-use permit with the borough prevents students from living in the units with the exception of blood relatives of the owners. The intent, he said, is for the units to be occupied by owners. Ultimately, a condo board association can determine more stringent guidelines for occupants.

The planned structure will be 153-feet at its highest point with a hotel, restaurant, retail space and condominiums. Brandeis says negotiations are underway with a hotel chain as well as national and international "modern" retailers. The hotel entrance will be on Beaver Avenue. The retail entrances will be on Fraser Street.

Brandeis addressed the commission's concerns about traffic by noting the property's semi-circular driveway fits up to eight-vehicles and valet service will ensure quick parking on congested days, such as home games for Penn State football.

Additionally, Brandeis said he expects most of the traffic for retailers to be pedestrians - folks who park at the nearby Fraser Street garage and shop at multiple locations.

"We think there is going to be a nice amount of customer traffic, mostly pedestrian," he says. "Having that parking near our property is a positive."

The borough is also reviewing a PennDOT traffic study related to the project.

Commissioner Zoe Boniface also raised concerns regarding some of the materials developers plan to use in construction, specifically synthetic stucco. Boniface says another building on Beaver Avenue used a similar material, which makes the structure look "dirty and awful."

"I think it's import that this building look high-class over the long term," she says.

Brandeis said the property will be well-maintained to avoid a decline in appearance. Quality appearance is greatly important to the interested hotel chain and retailers, he says.

The future site of the Fraser Centre at South Frazer Street and West Beaver Avenue was previously the site of Borough Hall, a parking lot and office building.

The 266,000 square-foot structure, which has been in the works since 2008, will include roughly 182,000 square-feet of commercial space and about 53,000 square-feet of residential space.

The previous developer, Susquehanna Real Estate, had similar plans for the site. It was expected to be complete last May. But the ambitious project never made it off the ground.

"Let's get this long suffering project built," says commissioner Rich Kalin.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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