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Allen Street Pedestrian Plaza Proposal Is Off The Table, For Now

Turning the 100 block of South Allen Street into a pedestrian-only plaza is a concept that’s been long discussed and debated in State College, and a proposal submitted in April to the borough by Centre Foundation would have given the idea a test run for six weeks in the summer.

That won’t be happening. At least for now.

In a joint statement issued on Thursday, the foundation and Downtown State College Improvement District said that the application for the temporary plaza has been withdrawn because more community engagement is needed for the project.

“Initial outreach and conversations with business leaders and community members demonstrated a great deal of enthusiasm,” the statement said. “However, we have determined that at this time the project needs more community engagement to implement successfully. Therefore, Centre Foundation has withdrawn the street closure application. Together, we look forward to continued collaboration with the State College Borough, Downtown State College, and other community groups on projects that will enhance downtown State College and the entire community.”

A spokesman for the project said there is no plan in place at this time for when the plaza proposal might be revisited. He did not elaborate on what motivated the application withdrawal, only saying that, “It was just clear that work was still needed to get everyone on board with the project.”

Allen Street is, of course, closed to vehicle traffic multiple times a year for events like Arts Festival, Last Cruise, First Night and other festivals and activities. But Centre Foundation’s proposal would have closed the road starting on May 29 and continuing until July 8. The closure would have then continued with Arts Fest July 11-15.

Borough Council was expected to consider the application at its May 21 meeting.

“For years, many residents have come to the conclusion that Allen Street, between College and Beaver Avenues should be a pedestrian plaza,” Centre Foundation Executive Director Molly Kunkel said last month. “By creating one for several weeks over the summer we can take advantage of good weather and a quieter pace in town while testing the concept short-term. With borough council approval, we’ll take that idea and run with it.”

A grant from Knight Foundation Donor Advised Fund at Centre Foundation would have funded a pop-up plaza with seating, landscaping, a play area for children and a stage for performances, among other features. The foundation would work with businesses to accommodate deliveries, as well as hiring extra cleaning and security crews.

Kunkel said in April that many, but not all, businesses on Allen Street and nearby were receptive to the concept. During the 2017 mayoral campaign, candidate Michael Black discussed a pedestrian mall on Allen Street and said the idea had garnered support from business owners.

That support was a notable difference from the last time the idea was seriously discussed. 

In 2012, Borough Council voted to send a pilot project for an Allen Street pedestrian mall to the Downtown State College Improvement District for further discussion.

A number of business owners, however, expressed concerns about the measure, believing it would have a negative impact.

In the statement on Thursday, Centre Foundation and the Downtown Improvement District said the temporary pedestrian plaza was meant to showcase the unique aspects of downtown State College.

“Downtown State College is a special place in our community,” the statement said. “As the nexus of town and gown, it showcases the atmosphere that makes our town beloved by so many residents. That is what enticed the Centre Foundation to propose transforming Allen Street into a temporary pedestrian plaza this summer.”

About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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