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Downtown State College High-Rises Changing ‘Small Town’ Feel

It’s no secret that downtown State College has turned a corner in the architectural world. Gradually going from six to eight-story buildings like Beaver Hill to new modern high-rises like the HERE has left State College feeling a little less like the borough we all used to know.

It seems like every time students come back for a new fall semester a new building is being worked on downtown. It first started in 2016 with the 12-story Fraser Centre at 217 W. Beaver Ave.

But the Fraser Centre is not student housing. It was built to bring in adults outside the immediate Penn State community to the downtown scene.

Since then, the idea of non-student housing generally went downhill, and State College has leaned toward more luxurious student housing because of market forces. The 2008 recession allowed developers across the country to take advantage of areas with investment in student housing, and State College has been one of those focuses.

After the Fraser Centre was built, the 12-story Metropolitan, also known as The Met, at 412 W. College Ave., was built in 2017.

After The Met came the Rise, another 12-story building, at 532 E. College Ave. in 2018. During the construction of the Rise was the construction of The Edge at 254 E. Beaver Ave.

The HERE (barely) concluded its construction in fall 2020 at 131 Heister St. Before the HERE was the Garner Street parking garage, which is now gone but never forgotten. It added convenient downtown parking, especially for people unfamiliar with the area.

Garner Parking lot before the HERE was built.

The Pugh Centre was also added to the new list of buildings and was completed in time for the beginning of the fall 2020 semester. It is located on the corner of East Beaver and South Pugh St.

Lastly, for now, is a new 12-story building, The Standard, which can be found at 330 W. College Ave. It’s being built directly across from The Met, adding a lot of height in that area of downtown. It should be up and running by the fall 2021 semester and is giving students another option off campus.

While the high-rises ensure that there’s no shortage of student housing downtown, the extreme rent prices threaten affordable housing options for lower-income students. If students can’t afford $1,000+ monthly rent, the rooms will likely sit vacantly.

Not only are new high-rises taking away the small-town feel of State College and threatening affordable housing options, but a recent developer, Core Spaces, is in the talks of demolishing a few small businesses.

Pizza Mia, located at 114 Hetzel Street, is in the plans to be demolished for a new high rise built by Core Spaces if approved by the State College Design Review Board. Other small businesses included in the plan are Eddie’s Bicycles and Hockey Equipment at 480 E. College Ave., George’s Floral Boutique, at 482 E. College Ave., and SusTus Chiropractic at 112 Hetzel Street.

Pretty soon, the State College we all know and love is going to be saturated with modern high-rises in the upcoming years. One can hope that the original businesses of State College like The Corner Room, McLanahan’s, the Cheese Shoppe, and even Canyon Pizza will not be touched by developers.

State College is known for its charm, historic streets, and unique apartments that sit atop popular storefronts. High-rises threaten the scenic view of State College, too. As buildings grow vertically, it gets tougher to see the beautiful mountains off in the distance. With the possible addition of another high-rise on Hetzel St., those mountain views could be completely gone.

One Penn State senior feels the new high-rises are taking away the small-town feel that State College is best known for.

“I used to love downtown because of all the small shops and the scenery. But now, I can’t see past these insane high-rises, and they change the entire vibe of downtown,” Alex Lawson said.

Meanwhile, Ester Pak, a Penn State junior, feels the high-rises are a sign of the times.

“I think the changes downtown may not be as drastic to the students because the changes are meant to appeal to us specifically as a younger generation and as their main customers,” Pak said. “But I understand that it can be startling and even disappointing to alumni who come back to campus and see that everything is different.”

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About the Author

Sarah Sacker

Sarah is a junior majoring in journalism and a writer for Onward State. She is from Annapolis, Maryland, and is a huge fan of the Ravens and Capitals. If not hanging with friends you can catch Sarah playing XBOX, Assassin's Creed/Modern Warfare gang, or binging a new TV show with her roommates. Follow her on Twitter @Sarah_Sacker8 or email her at [email protected]

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