Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Gymnastics academy seeks zoning change to locate in Patton

STATE COLLEGE — A gymnastics and acrobatic arts studio is hoping to open in Patton Township, but first some zoning issues need to be resolved.

Phoenix Academy of Performing Arts of Pennsylvania would like to use the vacant property at 118 Hawbaker Industrial Drive, formerly home to WESCO Lighting. The property is zoned industrial, which does not include fitness centers, so the group is asking the township to make an exception.

On March 24, township supervisors unanimously agreed to have the Planning Commission review the request and provide a recommendation, which supervisors would later vote on.

Phoenix Academy representatives said the studio would provide a benefit to the community.

“Phoenix Academy is a group of individuals and investors who have come together to form a gymnastic and acrobatics arts studio. Multiple other gymnastic-type facilities … have closed in the recent past. So there is a demand for this type of business and there is an opportunity for those who are involved with Phoenix Academy to bring these services back to the area,” the group’s lawyer, David Gaines, told Patton Township’s Board of Supervisors.

“This is a significant opportunity for the whole community,” said Phoenix Academy representative Evan Myers about the studio.

“It will definitely have a positive impact on Patton Township. The idea is, parents will drop off their kids and then be able to go shopping nearby while their kids are in class, or grab a bite to eat. We are looking at performances and meets that will bring some outside people in.”

The studio will fill a void since Nittany Gymnastics recently closed after being in business for nearly 30 years, by offering traditional gymnastics instruction, he said. The facility will also offer dance and the circus arts.

“Cirque du Soleil-type of entertainment has a growing demand in our region and across the country and there are few places, actually, to learn those things,” said Myers.

“It will create a really unique opportunity to be able to teach that.”

WESCO Lighting left the property in 2019, and it has sat vacant ever since. Gaines said he believes Phoenix Academy is the only potential tenant. There are some minor structural changes that need to occur in order to open up the inside of the building for the studio, he said.

Phoenix Academy hired an architect to start working on the project, but then was made aware of the zoning issues and is waiting the determination by the township before moving forward.

A group spokesperson said there shouldn’t be any issues, as a cross-fit facility and another gymnastics-related business is located in the same zoning district.

“Mr. Drobka (architect) started his part of the project thinking that these fitness centers were allowed in the district because they have been there before,” said Gaines.

Myers asked that the township move forward as quickly as possible, because the hope is to be open by the start of the next school year in the fall.

“With the pandemic putting things on hold for a year now, and with vaccinations now and so on, with the idea that we will get back closer to normal by the fall, it presents a business opportunity to do that,” said Myers.

The group has looked at other buildings, but this is the preferred location, he said.

Township Manager Doug Erickson said the process to get approval would take 60 to 90 days.