Parking lot expansion to benefit Centre

BELLEFONTE — With Centre Crest plans in the works to move to a new, larger facility within the next four years, the county will reap the benefits of a parking lot expansion to the old facility.

When Centre Crest moves to its new $39-million 135,645 square-foot State College facility, the 96,000-square-foot county-leased nursing care facility will go back to the county. According to Commissioner Steve Dershem, the additional parking will make the facility more attractive for future repurposing.

During the Tuesday, Sept. 12 meeting of the Centre County Board of Commissioners, Bob Jacobs, director of county planning and community development, discussed updates of the parking lot expansion project, which has been in the works for the past two years.

The expansion, which will take place in the back of the facility at 502 E. Howard St. in Bellefonte, will include 70 additional parking spaces and stormwater management facilities. Currently, Jacobs said there are about 230 residents at the facility and about 142 parking spaces.

“Given the capacity of the current residents and employees, the current parking spaces are inadequate,” Jacobs said.

The new stormwater management will help alleviate some of the flooding issues that take place in and around the facility, he added.

All of the requirements to prepare for the project have been completed, Jacobs said, including permits and approvals from Bellefonte Borough. Several meetings have been held with owners of nearby properties and stormwater easements are the only items that need to be finalized before construction can begin.

The next step is for the county to get with Centre Care Inc. to work out the arrangements for the county to put the project out to bid, according to Jacobs.

Only initial plans for the county repurposing of the facility will take place over the next few years, which will include gathering information and ideas from the community, Commissioner Mark Higgins said. The top priority is to help the facility with its move, and the future plans of the facility will be discussed further under the term of a new board of commissioners.

“We’ve even had some internal conversation about opportunities that we have to move some of our operations around within Centre County,” Dershem said. “We’re obviously in a period of growth and we’re seeing some of our human services and court facilities expand, and we’re looking at all the options and keeping an open mind.”

Plans for the new Centre Crest facility call for the construction to take place behind the former Starlite Drive-In Theatre, located between Benner Pike and East College Avenue. Back in July, Centre Crest Board President Betsy Boyer said that construction is estimated to begin during the summer of 2018, with plans to have the new facility operational by the summer of 2020. The need for a new facility arose due to code restrictions and inefficient layout of the current facility, which dates back to the 1930s, in addition to accommodation for future growth.