Borough Council Rejects Summers On Allen Proposal
The State College Borough Council officially voted against allowing the closure of the 100 block of Allen Street for the proposed “Summers on Allen” initiative that aimed to establish a pedestrian plaza on the street for eight weeks from May to July 2020.
The 4-3 vote against the proposal marks the end of a debate that began in October, when Brad and Andrea Groznik originally presented the proposal for the plaza to Council on behalf of the Centre Foundation. Dan Murphy, Evan Myers, and Jesse Barlow voted in favor of adopting the proposal, while Theresa Lafer, Catherine Dauler, Janet Engeman and David Brown voted against it.
Lafer originally motioned to table the vote to allow Council to collect more information about the potential effect of the plan during Council’s discussion period. Council voted against that motion, but discussed the proposal at length after Borough Manager Tom Fountaine outlined a series of recommended qualifications to the proposal.
These qualifications included requirements for the street to be vacated by midnight on July 3, calls for several permits, and several liability considerations. Fountaine also said that the Borough could back out of the agreement at any time.
Lafer began Council’s discussion on the proposal. She said that several local and nonlocal residents had expressed their disapproval of the proposal, and emphasized business owner concerns over the closure of the streets.
“I sure don’t want to gamble with their incomes,” she said.
After David Brown said that the proposal would mainly benefit “the drinkers and the eaters who are going to spill out onto the streets with their flagons of beer and their pastrami sandwiches,” and said he would vote against the proposal unless several amendments were considered.
Dauler then called Centre Foundation Executive Director Molly Kunkle to the chambers podium to answer several questions. Kunkle explained the proposal’s reception of a $135,000 donor-advised Knight Foundation grant, and qualified several details of the proposal, such as programming plans and continued funding.
Lafer then took the floor again, and said that the obstruction of the street could prevent first responders from reaching its many buildings, many of which are old, in the event of a fire.
‘The extra 10 or 15 minutes it could take to get to them could mean the end of an entire block,” she said. “I would like to know that Alpha or anybody else could get there as rapidly as possible.”
Myers had the last word before the vote. He called the proposal an “experiment,” comparing it to the Highlands neighborhood pilot parking program. He also pointed out the similarities between the proposal, the Borough’s First Night celebrations, and Arts Fest.
“If we’re going to have downtown be more than it is, be a better representation of ourselves and the community, it needs to be a destination,” he said.
Myers also said that if concerns about fire hazards on Allen Street were legitimate, the Borough should address them as individual and serious concerns.
In 2018, Centre Foundation applied for funding to test out the idea of a summertime pedestrian plaza, but withdrew the application before the street was shut down, citing a lack of community engagement.
With two outgoing councilmembers, the door remains open for the plan to come to Council once again in the new year and potentially receive a different outcome.
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