Will the Plan change the downtown character?
There have been some suggests that the recommendations of the draft Plan will significantly change the character of Downtown and/or cause it to become a ‘big city.’
Many of the future redevelopment concepts that have been illustrated for Downtown were developed using the Borough’s existing zoning standards. When current zoning standards did not allow a property to be used to its fullest potential, the consultants made note of what changes could be applied; these changes are the basis of the height and density recommendations in Theme 4. For the most part, however, these redevelopment concepts are consistent with zoning regulations as they exist today and could be developed regardless of adoption of the draft Plan.
The concepts are beneficial for Downtown State College because they illustrate our Downtown’s potential to increase its aesthetic and economic value in such a way that is consistent with our community character and market realities. These concepts help to illustrate a framework that can inspire private property owners to reinvest in underutilized properties and lead to more informed investments. Despite the fact that there are many redevelopment concepts illustrated in the plan, it is unrealistic for our community to expect that all of the sites will redevelop—especially in the short term. The market analysis for our area indicates that there is some pent-up demand for growth in downtown, such as new retail opportunities, high class office space and non-student housing in relatively small quantities. However, should our community continue to grow in such a way that there was additional demand for these uses Downtown, the Plan could help guide redevelopment activity in a coordinated way.
Finally, while some of the concepts for redevelopment—or other recommendations—may seem ‘out of character’ for State College, they were informed by community input and the expertise of the consulting team. Throughout the early brainstorming sessions and subsequent reviews of the Plan’s recommendations, many community members expressed the desire to have Downtown amenities like those that they’ve experienced in other vibrant retail districts and university towns. This included more and higher quality restaurants and shops, more art galleries and public performance spaces, additional open spaces and outdoor seating, hotels and non-student housing, and more appropriately-scaled and better-designed buildings. Additionally, having prepared Master Plans for many university towns, the consulting team based their recommendations on their observations of a successful mix of uses for such an environment.
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