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South Atherton Street Affordable Housing Project Off the Table, Developer Says

A local developer has given up on efforts to build an affordable housing apartment complex on South Atherton Street after neighboring residents opposed a proposal to use a portion of an adjacent park for the project.

Progress Development Group Executive Vice President Ara Kervandjian said on Wednesday that he couldn’t get the project to work without the additional land.

Kervandjian previously withdrew a proposal in June for State College Borough to donate part of Nittany Village Park for what was to be a four-story, 26-unit apartment complex at 1306 S. Atherton St.

At the time, Kervandjian said he would attempt to develop a modified plan to redevelop the former RBR Recumbent Bicycles property with a smaller building and fewer units.

Recently, however, a new sign has appeared on the property indicating it is back on the market. Kervandjian confirmed to StateCollege.com on Wednesday he is no longer considering the project.

“Unfortunately, the size of the site at 1306 S. Atherton prohibited the size of the building and parking without the assistance of Borough and need for the small area of land from Nittany View Park,” he wrote in an email. “At the moment, we do not have any prospects in the Borough for an alternative site for affordable housing.”

On May 10, Kervandjian gave an overview of the proposal to borough council and explained that to qualify for federal low-income housing tax credits, the building would need to have sufficient size and units.

PDG had proposed a long-term lease with the borough for the park. Kervandjian said the planned Parkland Apartments building would have used about 16% of the 34,000-square-foot park.

As part of the lease, PDG would have “enhance[d] the Nittany Village Park significantly,” Kervandjian said, with new play equipment, play areas and landscaping, all of which would be paid for and maintained by PDG.

Council members mostly seemed receptive to the project at the time.

At a public hearing in June, Tusseyview neighborhood residents said they agreed there is a need for more affordable housing but urged the borough and developer to find a way to develop the building without using park land or to find a different location for it.

One resident noted that the land has been used as a park for about 80 years and was donated to the borough as a park in 1956. Pennsylvania law generally requires municipalities to maintain such deeded land for its original purpose. Others suggested that the borough was heading down a slippery slope if it decided to take away park land for building developments.

Neighbors had begun voicing opposition in April with a gathering to show support for keeping the park out of the development plans. PDG subsequently reduced the amount of parking that extended into the park site in response to the neighbors’ concerns, but resistance to the proposal persisted.

When Kervandjian withdrew the proposal for the park land, he cited the “considerable opposition from surrounding neighbors.” 

Kervandjian and PDG have developed multiple affordable housing complexes in Centre County in recent years, including Bellefonte Mews, Limerock Court and Pleasant Pointe in College Township, a new 18-unit building on Cherry Lane in Ferguson Township, and Atherton Place, located across the street from the site of the now scrapped Parkland Apartments proposed site.

“We had hoped to develop the 24 units at 1306 to complement our neighboring project across the street, Atherton Place at 1311 S. Atherton,” Kervandjian wrote on Wednesday. “Progress Development Group, LLC (PDG) continues to be committed to developing high quality affordable housing projects in State College and outside of Centre County.”