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

State College Borough Council Creates New Real Estate Advisory Board

by on February 11, 2014 10:40 AM

At its Monday night meeting, State College Borough Council formally approved the creation of a new advisory board that will provide neighborhood feedback on the progress of the Homestead Investment Program.

The Homestead Investment Program authorizes the borough to purchase and resell properties within a half-mile of University Park to diversify neighborhoods and expand opportunities for home ownership.

The Real Estate Advisory Committee (REAC) was originally authorized on December 16 to provide council with an annual report from real estate experts. After discussion, however, the decision was made to also include representation from the neighborhoods.

The board now includes a member of the planning commission, a student currently enrolled at Penn State, and residents from the neighborhoods near the Penn State campus, says Community Development and Planning Director Carl Hess.

Director of Public Works Mark Whitfield also updated council on the current progress of the Capital Improvement Program Project, which aims to provide the borough with a number of renovations and improvements to parks, sidewalks, and roads.

Whitfield outlined a number of projects, including sidewalk replacement, street and alley resurfacing, sealcoating on Allen Street and Beaver Avenue parking lots, installation of new sanitary sewer pipe, and upgrades to the municipal mechanics garage to accommodate clean natural gas vehicles.

Signal improvements were also announced at the intersection of Hillcrest Avenue and Atherton Street, which Whitfield identified as a top five high crash zone in State College.

Also at the meeting, The State Theatre's new executive director asked for continued support from the borough council.

Greg Ray, who was promoted following a change in leadership due to financial struggles, admitted that the theatre's "affinity for the arts may have clouded our financial judgment." Ray reported a net loss of $352,000 in 2013.

However, things are looking up. The theatre reported a gain in the first quarter of the 2014 fiscal year, which began on October 31. According to Ray, it was the first in "quite a long time".

"In the past, we were focused internally, and mainly on crafting art," says Ray, the first director to be hired internally. "We want to turn the attention outward. We are listening now. What would you like to see from your community arts center?"

Council recently increased its financial backing of the non-profit theatre from $2,000 to $10,000, and said Monday night it would also endorse events.

"We have your back," Myers told representatives from the State Theatre.

The First Eight Weeks report, an annual research document highlighting the number of public complaints, citations, and disturbances handled by police during the first eight weeks of the new academic year at Penn State, was distributed to council by planning director Carl Hess.

Hess asserted the report, known as F8, is designed to improve community-university relations by taking a "proactive, not reactive" approach to the continued growth of the university. In the previous report, total offenses in 2012 were down by 285 offenses (21.12%) compared with 2011.

"The numbers show a serious attempt from the state, police, and university to deal with a truly unlivable situation," says councilwoman Theresa Lafer.

When asked for comment, UPUA student representative Chase Englund said the argument that the growth of the university is a problem for the community is "shortsighted".

Councilman Myers responded by saying that the council simply wants to be made aware of the breadth and scope of the university's growth in advance in order to make adequately prepare the borough.

According to the meeting agenda, further discussion of the report is scheduled for a future work session.

C.J. Doon is a frequent contributor to Onward State and is a former intern. A Long Island native, Doon is studying print journalism at Penn State.
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