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Planners give nod to Grande Palazzo expansion

Blair County Planning Commission members Thursday gave a favorable review — with some concerns — to an expansion plan for the Graystone Grande Palazzo senior living facility.

Developer Jeff Long is planning a $35 million, nine-story addition to be constructed in an Eighth Avenue parking lot across from the back of the existing complex.

The 300,000 square-foot addition will house 195 independent living units and a two-story parking garage and will connect with the current structure by an enclosed bridge over Eighth Avenue, Long recently told members of the Altoona Zoning Hearing Board, which gave him the go-ahead.

Proposed parking at the site will total 203 interior parking spaces and 60 exterior spaces, said Jamie L. Klink, regional planner. However, the total number of Americans with Disabilities Act spaces is not shown on the plans.

“We recommend that the minimum number of ADA spaces will total at least seven accessible spaces,” Klink said.

One of the exterior lots will be located along Ninth Avenue, with the spaces being accessed directly from Ninth Avenue, which does not comply with Altoona’s parking facility design requirements stating that “facilities shall be designed so that each vehicle may enter and exit a parking space without maneuvering into a public right of way,” Klink said.

“Due to the abundance of parking at the site, we recommend eliminating these spaces,” Klink said.

It does not appear that any bicycle parking will be provided as part of this proposal.

“We recommend that the developer installs bicycle parking facilities that will comply with Altoona’s bicycle parking requirements,” Klink said.

Sidewalks will be provided along Eighth Avenue, a portion of 26th Street, and at various points within the site; however, no sidewalks are proposed along 27th Street, Klink said.

“In order to comply with Altoona’s sidewalk requirements and to provide greater pedestrian circulation, we recommend the inclusion of sidewalks along 27th Street,” Klink said.

Landscaping is shown to be included as part of the proposal in the form of street trees; however, the inclusion and placement of shrubbery trees does not appear to be included as part of the design, Klink said.

“We recommend the developer includes appropriate shrubbery to comply with Altoona’s landscaping requirements,” Klink said.

The construction of the complex has the potential to create a significant amount of additional traffic to the site. During the initial construction of the Grande Palazzo, the developer had stated that both PennDOT and the City of Altoona had agreed that a transportation impact study would not be necessary for the project provided that this phase of construction was discussed and factored into that decision, Klink said.

“We recommend that the developer refers back to those initial discussions regarding transportation impacts as a result of this project,” Klink said. “If this phase was not discussed at that time, we recommend that they consult with both PennDOT and the city in order to address the further impacts that this project will have on the transportation system.”

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