BELLEFONTE — A State College developer has reached sales agreements on three burned-out buildings in Bellefonte and has plans to turn them into workforce housing with commercial space.
The Hotel Do De and Garman Theatre have sat vacant since a September blaze badly damaged them. The Cadillac Building burned in December 2009.
Ara Kervandjian, managing member of Progress Development Group, recently reached an agreement on the Garman, completing the trio and rounding out the future home of the housing project he’s calling Bellefonte Mews.
“Rebuilding those buildings, I think, is the beginning of a process that downtown Bellefonte sorely needs in order to take advantage of some of the opportunities that they have,” he said. He specifically cited the development of waterfront properties and bringing more investment and development to the town.
The total price of the Cadillac Building purchase was $31,000, but Kervandjian would not reveal the price of the other two buildings.
The plan is to build two housing projects, one called the Cadillac House and the other called the Garman House. The latter will be a new building that combines both the Garman and the Do De, which both will be demolished. It will also include two commercial retail spaces, which combine to about 6,000 square feet.
The Cadillac Building will be salvaged and heavily renovated, he said, and the two buildings will combine for 32 apartments, mostly servicing families.
Housing will be geared toward people with 50 to 60 percent of the adjusted median income with a few units available to 20 percent, Kervandjian said. Following Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency guidelines, the buildings will be eligible for a federal low-income housing tax credit — a dollar-for-dollar reduction in federal taxes.
The need for these services remains great, Housing Transitions Executive Director Ron Quinn said, but this will help alleviate some of the burden.
He said this is coming at the right time, especially after the closures of the Penn State Mobile Home Park and the Hilltop Mobile Home Park and the fires in Bellefonte.
“It certainly would be an asset to the community and for housing in general, serving a diverse population of folks,” he said. “I think it’s terrific.”
Kervandjian said he will know by the end of the summer if the necessary finances are in line, and if all goes smoothly, he is hoping to break ground in February 2014. He said the project will take about a year to complete.
Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said he never anticipated that a developer would be interested in the properties so quickly after the fire and is pleased that these buildings could bring “vibrance” back to the town.
“The fact that we had an interested developer basically come in and express an interest was truly a breath of fresh air,” he said.
Stewart said he and the Borough Council are happy to work with Progress Development Group to make sure the buildings are rebuilt.
One potential concern was parking, but it doesn’t appear to be a problem — Kervandjian said there will be parking behind the Garman House that will serve both buildings with on-street parking as another option.
Project Development Group will continue to look at all options for housing throughout the county, he said, but there are no immediate plans for more projects in Bellefonte.
Developer to Transform Bellefonte’s Hotel Do De, Garman, Cadillac Buildings Into Workforce Housing, Commercial Space
February 25, 2013