Downtown Renaissance – The Innovation District Movement Hits Penn State

Gleaming, glass edifice of student high-rise hubs reflect cranes and excavation these days along College Avenue. The ‘Innovation District’ trend is manifesting in revitalized areas of Downtown State College. These highly efficient districts are defined as consolidated cores, encompassing office, retail and residential spaces. Social networking and community collaboration drive business ideas and the economy forward in this new urban model. Penn State University, the perfect anchor for such real estate developments, is creating a buzz within the commercial real estate market in State College.

The Metropolitan – On the corner of College and Atherton Streets

Calls to my office range from business owners seeking relocation within the shadows of the wrecking ball to retailers wanting a space within these industrious districts.

Among the renaissance of Downtown State College, The Metropolitan, managed by MSC Retail, will be the first of three (and possibly more) student high-rise projects to entertain this contemporary model for living, working and studying. Come August, The Met will open it’s doors with 501 “luxury student living beds”, fully furnished and 10,000 square feet in retail space (with current plans for burger and Japanese food concepts), a 9,000 sf clubhouse, resort style pool, extensive fitness facilities and more.


Rise at State College, being constructed on the other side of College Ave. from The Metropolitan, will also encompass retail space and convenient urban amenities. It is rumored that a pub/eatery restaurant chain, serving a selection of craft style beers and Irish/American comfort cuisine may have an interest in such retail space.  Urban Market is a secured tenant in Rise marked down for 16,500 sf.  At 12 stories, 575 student and professional residences with a 24 hour fitness center, yoga room and more; Rise is hyped to live up to it’s name.

The Residences, proposed in the footprint of Zola’s, California Tortilla and West College Realty, has been proposed, but nothing more has been disclosed.  When I called CDG Propreties to inquire about retail space, a representative told me to follow up in a few months.

Rise at State College on the corner of College Ave.

The juxtaposition of older buildings and the millennial’s need to feel interconnected in the new way of urban planning will create an interesting dynamic in Downtown State College and the Penn State student and young professional lifestyle.  If you’re among the mindset of maintaining a small town feel, you may not need to fret.  Zoning within the core of the State College Borough has implemented height restrictions and areas that do not qualify for future development (currently).  These zoning conditions are lauded by some, but it’s creating a challenge for investors and developers to get their foot in the door to cash in on the innovation trend.  Among an ever-changing skyline, certain constructs will forever hold true; Penn State pride…and a booming industry.