“This is a special place:” Downtown State College Improvement District’s Lee Ann Jeffries on the best of Happy Valley

– by Cara Aungst

Lee Anne Jeffries is deeply rooted in Happy Valley. She grew up in the area, went to Penn State and now heads the Downtown State College Improvement, a live, work, and play neighborhood that sparks the creative, the eclectic, and the local. “Happy Valley is home and I care deeply about this town, it’s a special place,” she says.

She sat down with us to tell us the best things about State College, what every visitor should experience while they’re here and her favorite downtown bites (spoiler — she can’t choose just one). Read on!

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HVAB: Can you tell me about your role with the Downtown State College Improvement District (DSCID)? Why is it such a vital part of our downtown?

LJ: I have been with the DSCID for four years, first as the marketing and communications director, and then as the executive director, starting in early 2021.

Neighborhood Improvement Districts like the DSCID are important connectors between the business community and local leaders, universities and townships. We work closely with these entities to ensure the downtown businesses are supported and informed on what is happening locally.

We host events, market through year round advertising and social media support. We are the businesses biggest cheerleaders, advocating on their behalf whenever needed. This was extremely important during the pandemic as we assisted small businesses by providing them with vital COVID-19 recovery funding opportunities and a gift card initiative that sparked much needed revenue downtown.

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HVAB: You are the director of the Downtown State College Improvement District. In your opinion, what’s the best thing about this town?

LJ: There are businesses in Downtown State College that have been operating since I was a kid, they have truly stood the test of time. It’s a special place where many choose to put down roots. It’s a safe and beautiful town, surrounded by mountains and outdoor adventures around every corner with art and cultural experiences at your fingertips.

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HVAB: What do you tell visitors they HAVE to do while they are here?

LJ: They have to experience the downtown Art Walk that has over 40 pieces of public art on display. Make sure to visit Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Plaza on Fraser Street. Campus is right across the street, and making stops at the Arboretum, grabbing an ice cream cone at The Creamery and taking a photo at the Lion Shrine are a must.

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HVAB: What’s your top favorite restaurant or dish here?

LJ: I really can’t choose favorites, because it’s like choosing a child! But, I will say that the newly renovated Allen Street Grill and The Tavern are spots that you don’t want to miss while you’re in town! The Diner was a staple downtown for many years and was known for their Grilled Stickies…these are still available to purchase downtown at The Corner Room, I recommend grabbing a box, or two to take home!

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau publishes up-to-date event information at HappyValley.com/events