Onward Debate: Big Business In State College

If you haven’t noticed, State College is changing as fast as the fall leaves. High-rises and chain stores are becoming almost as common as a pumpkin spice latte this time of year. The introduction of Target and H&M to downtown has caused a lot of buzz, both positive and negative.

Two of our writers argued whether or not State College should welcome or shun these box stores and developments.

Chains And high-rises are a freedom to students — Caitlin Gailey

It’s time that small State College businesses stop taking advantage of Penn State students. I am tired of being manipulated by the monopoly of downtown and finally I no longer will be. As a student without a car my options as a consumer are severely reduced. I am limited to what is convenient, and what is convenient is consistently overpriced and often has less of a variety.

With the inclusion of new high-rises and chains like Target and H&M, students will regain their freedom to chose.

I will no longer have to pay $5 for a box of cereal thinner than the width of my thumb. I will no longer have to pay shipping and wait a week anytime I want reasonably-priced clothing. For that, my bank account and I are grateful to have chains like Target and H&M at walking distance.

Change is inevitable, and those who resist it at all costs are unrealistic. As the university grows and years go by, the town around it will have to adapt. An increase of students means an increased need for housing, and when the town could no longer move outwards, it moved upwards. High-rises will give more students the luxury of living downtown, just like many of us had. Who are we to say they don’t deserve the opportunity because we don’t want things to change?

As a town and college founded on tradition, change like this can be scary. It is obvious that high rises will change the landscape of State College, but the elevation of a few buildings will not change the charm. It’s the people and beloved staples like the Corner Room and Irving’s that make downtown what it is, not the height of some buildings and a few chain stores. The addition of more conveniences won’t ever change that.

Chains and high-rises don’t belong in State College — Lexi Shimkonis

When I first came to Penn State however many years ago, I was enamored with the small town feel of State College in a community with a personality as big as Penn State. The little storefronts and unique restaurants and shops that make up the town can’t be found anywhere else, and that’s what gives downtown State College it’s identity. Or, it did until developers targeted the area for big-name stores and bigger buildings.

The State College community is inherently unique, and there is no place for stores like Target, H&M, or the like downtown.

We should be preserving the quaint, small-town feel of State College instead of bringing in big name businesses that, while convenient, have no place in a community built on quirky, mom-and-pop local stores and restaurants like Irving’s, the Corner Room, and McLanahan’s. Even Urban Outfitters, one of the few “name brand” stores in the 16801, is low-key, blends in, and promotes a community feeling that plastic box stores cannot.

State College should also be limiting the erection of high-rise buildings. It ruins the quaint atmosphere I (and countless others) havev come to love about this place. Between the Fraser Centre and the Metropolitan going up, and potentially at least two other high rise complexes planned in the former location of Canyon Pizza and the former location of Kildare’s, the Penn State community tucked in the valley will soon become dominant over great university landmarks like Old Main and Beaver Stadium.

Note above how, in describing the location of these new high-rises, I referenced new spots based on the former location of State College staples. Kildare’s used to welcome students and visitors to State College, a rustic bar that had more than enough character for this community. And don’t even get me started on the relocation of Canyon Pizza to accommodate for another flashy building — losing a Penn State tradition to urbanization kills me, as I’m sure it does thousands of alumni.

Say you couldn’t care less about the look and feel of State College. Though that would be a crime, it probably means you are more interested in what downtown has to offer for you, and in this case that means convenience. Sure, both Target and H&M are convenient when you need a store you familiar with to pick something up last minute, but there are other locations you can go to for any item you would need from one of these stores.

The food you can get from Target (I’ve also never understood buying groceries from a place that also sells furniture and iPads, but that’s an argument for another time and place) can be found at McLanahan’s or the Creamery. The top you want from H&M to wear out for your birthday is probably available at Metro or another downtown boutique. We had everything we needed before these new stores came in, and now that they’re here people can’t imagine living without them.

If you can get over convenience, your other gripe is probably cost. I’m not oblivious to the fact that buying groceries or eating out downtown, especially week-in and week-out, breaks the bank. However it’s not that difficult to get to a place that sells food or whatever other goods you might need. For $3.50 ($1.75 each way), you can take a CATA bus to Walmart, Giant, Wegmans, and even a Target, plus a million other stores located on Atherton. If you want things to be a little easier, take an Uber or even have a friend drive you. Plus, places like Giant and Walmart are going to have the food you’re looking for way cheaper than a downtown Target would, so the money you think you’d be spending by walking to get your groceries could be spent on cheap, easy transportation, which is assuredly less than the difference in cost.

In my opinion, no inconvenience or price tag is more detrimental than the development of State College with retailers and commercial spaces.

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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