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

Residents Weigh in on Proposals for College Heights School Building

by on June 02, 2014 10:08 PM

Residents hold mixed viewpoints regarding what should happen to an old school building in the borough's College Heights neighborhood.

People had their say Monday night regarding the College Heights School during a State College Borough Council meeting.

At issue is a pending sale between the State College Area School District and Penn State. The university wants to pay $400,000 for the property to house University Press offices, which the district hasn't used as a school in years.

However, the borough has first right of refusal on the property. Council solicited community feedback Monday as part of its decision-making process.

Complicating the issue, the Collaboration of Arts, Social Services and Education (CASE), which is an alliance of several non-profit groups, hopes the borough will take ownership of the building and in turn possibly give CASE an opportunity to purchase or lease the building.

Barbara Fisher, a resident of Ferguson Township, says she supports the mission of CASE, which would be to allow its non-profit members to operate community programs out of the school while sharing expenses.

"I feel that their need and purpose is so great and appropriate for the College Heights School," she says.

Fisher says the situation is similar to when she and her husband purchased a 17-bedroom fraternity house and converted it to offices. She said the project required heavy financing but turned into "the best investment we ever made." Fisher says she's optimistic CASE would receive the same financial support.

Lara Fowler, who relocated to State College from Seattle two years ago, says she does not support one particular tenant for the property. At the same time, she notes that Seattle officials successfully transformed an old school into a community center that offered various classes for residents.

"I think there is a need for this kind of opportunity," she says.

Rich Fitzgerald, who lives across the street from the school, says he is does not support the borough using taxpayer dollars to purchase and then sell the property. He also says he is concerned about an increase in traffic volume based on the type of use of the property.

In addition to the $400,000 for the sale, Penn State says the university would spend roughly $600,000 for initial renovations and then another $1 million in renovations over time.

Meanwhile, CASE only has $200,000 donated by two members, the United Way of Centre County and OLLI. CASE also says a bank has agreed to a $200,000 loan. Still, if CASE were to acquire the property, the group says additional donations would come in and the group would be eligible for various grants.

Council is expected to make a final decision on the proposed sale later this month.

In other news, council unanimously approved a resolution declaring support for local police departments to have access to radar, a law enforcement speed detection tool that has been the subject of debate for years in Pennsylvania. State College Police Chief Thomas King is a proponent of the measure.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that does not allow municipal police officers to use radar. Currently, state law only allows Pennsylvania State Police to utilize the tool. State troopers have been using it since 1962.

There are two bills in the state legislature that would change the state's law. Additionally, the House transportation committee is reviewing the issue through a series of hearings, which began last month.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for 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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