Much of downtown State College’s charm is owing to its historic buildings and community institutions, such as Harpers, The Corner Room, The Tavern, and the Shandygaff. While these standbys have sustained local retail, food, and drink needs for decades, the downtown region is alive, growing, and thriving — constantly attracting new shops and restaurants and inspiring events that make revisiting the business district a regular, must-do activity.
Joseph Quinn (JQ), Events and Operations Specialist for the Downtown State College Improvement District, says several new restaurants have set up shop recently: Campus Steaks, a cheesesteak place, opened on Pugh Street in August. Authentic French cuisine is served at Oeuf Boeuf et Bacon on Garner Street. Penn State Halal Guys are also new to the State College scene with a shop on Calder Way. Last year, Way Fruit Farm — a longtime Stormstown staple — opened a downtown market and café to bring the farm to Calder Way.
Downtown State College takes community input seriously, and people gave feedback they’d like to see a food and beverage-type of festival come to downtown, so the organization answered with the inaugural Sips & Sounds Downtown Festival, held in June. Downtown State College worked with organizers from the Central PA Tasting Trail to curate the event, which included live music, lots of food, and a fenced-off area for alcohol-drinkers partaking from local alcohol vendors. JQ says the event was “a fun day downtown, open to all ages,” adding that the organization is planning to host the event again this year.
For more downtown events, JQ points to 3 Dots Downtown, a community center on Beaver Avenue whose mission and vision “is to inspire a more vibrant community by elevating the humanities, promoting local arts, cultivating innovative experiences and offering an inclusive public space for civic engagement.” 3 Dots has been facilitating street shutdowns to bring people together to enjoy music, markets, dances, and other art forms.
There are also ongoing events from previous years that folks may have missed or not crossed off their to-do list just yet, including Latin Fest (held in October in MLK Plaza), Central PA Festival of the Arts, the weekly Farmers Market on Locust Lane, the Centre Film Festival, held at The State Theatre and in Philipsburg at the Rowland Theatre, and well as online, and the annual tree-lighting ceremony downtown, which has been growing each year and now encompasses the whole 100 block of Allen Street.
“There’s a little something for everyone...There are lots of different things happening downtown you might not expect.”
- Joseph Quinn
“There’s a little something for everyone,” JQ says. “There are lots of different things happening downtown you might not expect.”
As far as planning new events and seeking new businesses to Downtown State College, “We continue to collaborate with the Borough of State College and Penn State University to identify the needs of the community, while supporting the businesses in our district to make thoughtful decisions on the best path forward regarding development,” says Lee Anne Jeffries, Downtown State College Improvement District Executive Director.
The organization keeps its distinct mission in mind while developing downtown: “Our mission is to create and promote Downtown State College as a welcoming and vibrant place for all,” Jeffries says. “So, we work to expand the mix of businesses downtown and continue to attract women and minority owned businesses, creating a diverse district for students, residents and visitors. Personally, I would like to see more retail clothing options for adults, locally made artisan goods, and an intimate wine bar would be lovely!”
If you haven’t been to downtown State College in a while — or ever! — Jeffries advises: “I encourage people to come downtown and take a walk around. If you are not a regular to downtown, you will be amazed at how many small businesses, unique gift shops, and restaurants specializing in a variety of cuisines prosper in the district. There are plenty of misconceptions about downtown State College that are often accepted as facts, so I encourage everyone to experience the town for themselves…I would be happy to provide recommendations!”