Monday night's State College Borough Council meeting marked Mayor Don Hahn’s last meeting as mayor, as he is set to become district magisterial judge.
The meeting began with several commemorations of his work and achievements as mayor of State College.
State Representative Scott Conklin read a proclamation for Hahn.
“Many times in one’s career you get to do a lot of things, but very few times do you get to do things for a true friend," Conklin said. "In the citation from the commonwealth tonight is for someone I’ve had the honor to call my friend for over 20 years.”
Conklin then gave Hahn a citation on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the House of Representatives.
The meeting then continued to discuss the Summers on Allen Street proposal and application, which has been a hot button topic for the past several council meetings.
The proposal requests to turn the 100 block of South Allen Street into a pedestrian plaza for eight weeks, starting May 11. The plaza would include seating, landscaping, a children's play area and a stage for performances.
A representative for Rapid Transit Sports emphasized the store’s stance against the street closure project. He said he believed it will negatively affect traffic, deliveries and parking. However, the store's biggest concern is that the street closure will make it harder for customers to get to the store.
“We are one of the few stores downtown that gets busier when the students leave, we also have many elderly customers, and customers with physical issues. By closing the street you are making it harder for them to get to our store,” the employee said.
He went on to say Rapid Transit Sports is not against what the project represents, just against it taking place on South Allen Street. He suggested the council put the program in Friedman Park instead.
The representative also expressed concern for the lack of events planned during the weekdays on South Allen Street with this program. He said he worried the program will not be able to bring enough people to the area during the week to shop, while at the same time making it more difficult for usual customers to reach the store.
He was also concerned about the outdoor dining areas, where alcoholic beverages will be served, and how this will affect the children's play area.
“If this project is truly for the community, and families, and children, it should be placed in Friedman Park," he said. "This street closure is going to cost over $150,000, even if it is a complete success, that is a waste of $150,000. There are so many communities in Centre County that could use this money for really great things, life-changing things, and yet here we are trying to decide whether to use it to close a street for eight weeks."
State College Mayor Donald Hahn has been elected as district judge of district 49-01-01 afte…
The employee urged the Borough Council to have an exit strategy in place in case the project is a failure, so that the community does not need to suffer for eight weeks.
Magisterial District Judge Carmine Prestia spoke as a State College resident about why he is against the project. He reminded the Borough that in 1967, the Alpha Fire Company moved its carnival from the 100 block of South Allen Street due to safety reasons.
“In summary, I would say to you, that my opinion of this, is it was a bad idea 50 years ago, and it’s a bad idea today,” Prestia said.
Jason Neubert, a vendor at Pop Up Ave in State College, spoke about how the Summers on Allen Street project will benefit businesses overall.
“As a business owner in the past myself, negative impacts can always affect anybody, but we can’t look at necessarily something that occurred 50 years ago as though it would occur now. I think the most dangerous thing anybody in this room does is potentially walk out of their house, or potentially drive a car, or cross the street. If we live our lives consistently fearing what might happen, we’re not going to get anywhere with the possibilities that could exist,” Neubert said.
Penn State economics professor James Tierney voiced his support of the project as a State College resident.
He discussed how through his own personal experience and research in Burlington, New York, that community’s pedestrian plaza took a long time to develop. However, if State College implements the South Allen Street project now, he said it will continue to grow for years to come and benefit future residents.
“I just wanted to say that, and encourage you to vote with future State College in mind, rather than 1970s State College in mind,” Tierney said.
Later on in the meeting, the council voted to adopt a zoning ordinance that will permit a “cat café” to be built in State College in the Urban Village zoning district.
Toward the end of the meeting, Hahn gave his last mayor’s report. He cautioned the community about the divisive nature of extremism and the polarization between political parties.
“Two years ago when I was running for mayor it appeared that such extremism seemed present in State College, as well," Hahn said. "However, the divide is not between liberals and conservatives, but between students and the natives. Student leaders and neighborhood leaders appeared to be engaged in a toxic dialogue."
However, after going door-to-door, Hahn found many good-hearted people in town and on-campus that supported both State College and Penn State.
He then said that 2019 has been one of the most difficult years for the State College community, specifically referencing the death of Osaze Osagie in March.
“2019 has been probably the most difficult year for State College in my 22 years of public service,” Hahn said. “However, through all of the trials and tribulations of the past 12 months, I have emerged with a reaffirmed respect for the professionalism of our municipal staff, a renewed love for the people of the borough and an enhanced pride to be the mayor of State College."
There are 12 candidates for interim mayor, and the council will hold a special meeting at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, Dec. 3, to give candidates an opportunity to address the council and to respond to questions suggested by both the public and the council.