Hotel State College & Co. is seeking approval from State College Borough for a seasonal walkway that would support outdoor dining at Bill Pickle’s Taproom during warm weather months while also improving pedestrian access along South Allen Street.
The “pedlet,” would be in place from spring to fall within the two parking spaces directly in front of the 106 S. Allen St. tavern, connecting to the sidewalk and going around the Pickle’s seasonal outdoor deck.
In 2017, borough council approved a three-year agreement for Pickle’s to have an outdoor dining area extending into the sidewalk from April through the end of October. The deck allowed for a 5-foot clearance at the narrowest point on the sidewalk.
Jeff Sorg, CEO of Pat Croce and Company, which owns the Hotel State College businesses, told the State College Transportation Commission on Tuesday that in seeking a new license for outdoor dining, they wanted to explore a different concept that addresses concerns with the narrow pedestrian path on the sidewalk that resulted from previous iterations of the deck.
“We’ve looked at [a pedlet] for several of our restaurant locations because it’s growing in popularity as a way to promote pedestrian walkways while also facilitating increased outdoor dining,” Sorg said. “Hopefully this model is one that will work. We think it’s an attractive look. From what we’ve seen in other downtown locations, hopefully it promotes pedestrian visitation and provides a nice guest experience downtown.”
The walkway would be ADA accessible and would have a fence along the street side. Hotel State College would essentially rent the two parking spaces from the borough for a fair market value to be determined to replace any lost meter revenue.
Hotel State College would be responsible for constructing the pedlet “with a focus on providing an attractive walkway and deck, in accordance with the rendering, that enhances the streetscape along Allen Street,” according to a description of the project.
As with the deck in previous years, patrons would be required to enter Pickle’s to access the outdoor dining area. There would be no direct access from the pedlet to the deck.
Borough engineer Andy Arnold said the pedlet would have to work around a tree and electrical pole and a nearby bench would likely be relocated. A public bicycle rack near the property would not need to be moved.
“The overall concept is there,” Arnold said.
Agenda materials for the transportation commission meeting noted that “additional outdoor dining is consistent with the goals of the Downtown Master Plan.”
“Pedlets are being proven as an effective strategy to support downtown master planning goals for greater walkability and more outdoor dining,” the agenda stated.
The Downtown State College Improvement District submitted a letter of support for the plan.
Transportation commission unanimously endorsed a recommendation to borough council to approve the license agreement for an outdoor dining deck and the pedlet.
“As somebody who’s downtown a lot, I applaud you on trying to find ways to enhance the downtown experience,” commission chair Hugh Mose said. “There were issues with the former, I call it ‘the Bill Pickle’s porch,’ and those were related to the narrow sidewalk that was left. I think your approach this time has addressed that issue.”
Commission member James Graef said he believes the pedlet and outdoor deck will provide value to the downtown.
“I think it’s important that we recognize that this is better than two parking spots because it is activating the street as well and supporting businesses,” Graef said. “It looks like a great project.”
Borough council is expected to vote on the proposal during its meeting on Monday night.