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CommonPlace: A New, Uncommon Idea

When I first walked into CommonPlace downtown, I wasn’t sure where I was. It felt like a coffee shop, but it looked like an art gallery/living room hybrid. As it turns out, the newly opened CommonPlace (115 S. Fraser St.) is a coffee shop, an art gallery, and a living room; it’s whatever you want it to be.

Seeking to create a positive community space, the leaders at Calvary Baptist Church had an idea. With the help of volunteers, the space was completely renovated and their vision came to light. “It was a group effort,” said Pastor Steve Lutz, one of the minds behind CommonPlace. Donated furniture and artwork added the finishing touches to this incredibly versatile space with a ‘make yourself at home’ vibe.

“CommonPlace is a gathering space,” said Ken Hull. “Community members can come together and do work, study, read, eat, converse, or just simply be.”

Hull’s official title is Curator, although he thinks of himself as more of a host.

“What makes CommonPlace unique,” explained Hull, “is that there’s nothing for sale here. Our ‘business’ is creating community, for community, by community.” In exchange for wireless Internet, and local coffee blends and teas, patrons are asked to give what they can — or according to Hull, “what they think it’s worth.”

Every few months, a rotating art gallery wall will feature new, local art. The venue will host a book signing and a 7-piece jazz band concert in the near future. Additionally, they’re looking into things like open mic nights, singer/songwriter nights, and stand-up comedy nights. The space is available for rental as well.

Even though it’s backed by a church, anyone is welcome — regardless of religious views.

“The goal,” said Lutz, “is to bless our community by showing living proof of a loving God.” However, both Lutz and Hull stressed the fact that CommonPlace doesn’t preach or push religion on anyone. So far, community feedback has been great.

Apart from giving back to the State College community, CommonPlace is environmentally-minded as well. Paper products aren’t used at all, and customers are asked to wash the mugs, dishes, and silverware they utilize (if they’re able). Even used coffee grounds and things like banana peels are added to a compost pile, eliminating as much waste as possible.

An adaptable place where both Penn State students and permanent State College residents can come together is rare. Check out CommonPlace — you might find a new favorite study spot, a place for group meetings, or simply somewhere to chill between classes.

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About the Author

Michael DeGothseir

Advertising/PR major, Blue Band drummer, peanut butter enthusiast.

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