The State College Borough Council has voted to move forward with “Summers on Allen” — a project that will take place on the 100 block of South Allen Street from May 11, the day after spring graduation, to potentially as late as midnight on July 3.
The project, funded by a $135,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, will close all traffic to the area in hopes of creating a community-centered plaza with seating, a small stage and a space for primarily children and family activities.
Summers on Allen has been a topic of conversation at Borough Council meetings for some time now, and was ultimately voted on twice. The first time, the council voted 4-3 to reject the project. Then, when voted on for a second time with two new council members replacing former members who voted against the project initially, the proposal was approved with a 4-3 vote.
That said, there’s clearly some disagreement among locals on what the best course of action is for Summers on Allen.
Towns like State College are so frequently geared toward college students and meeting their needs and experiences. However, it seems as though Summers on Allen might have the potential to provide newer, unique experiences for families and young children downtown.
Twenty of 22 businesses on the block of South Allen Street approved the measure, though two were hesitant and feared losing business due to potential customers’ inability to park in front of stores in result. Further, there aren’t many specific plans yet for the use of the space, which was another concern expressed by the South Allen Street business owners who opposed the council’s vote.
Though it’s hard to say — and any business owners’ fears are valid when it comes to decisions that could affect local business — it seems many businesses on the block might not rely so heavily on street parking for customers to fully feel this effect.
Many businesses on South Allen Street are restaurants and bars, which are set up in a way that many can easily access without direct-outside parking. Taking into account how this might impact store deliveries is also pertinent — though one might hope a solution could be found, in exchange for increasing foot traffic and potentially driving sales for the street’s businesses through this project.
With the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, or “Arts Fest,” possibly beginning only days after Summers on Allen ends, it feels as though perhaps the Summers on Allen project might attempt to capture similar atmospheres for children and families that can also be found at Arts Fest.
New high-rises have begun to pop up around town, and many downtown businesses have come and gone over the past few years. With that in mind, it can’t help but feel like perhaps Summers on Allen is another effort within the State College community to make the town feel a bit more bustling or urban on its own — to show that State College can be just as full of life and activities without students, too.
Ultimately, the community won’t know what could happen at Summers on Allen until the event takes place — it might be a success, it might disappoint, it might fall somewhere in the middle. State College will just have to wait until May to see.
Regardless, in a town where students and their experiences are so often at the forefront, Summers on Allen has the opportunity to seemingly put local families and their children at the forefront. If this event could potentially help families create new memories and traditions together, taking a chance to try something new might be worth it.