Auburn positioned for 'renaissance'

City: Renewal projects provide visual, lasting impact to aid business, stabilize city funds
By: Tony Hazarian, Auburn Journal
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Despite an economy weakened by the housing downturn, Auburn is on the verge of a new renaissance that should position the community for years to come, city officials said Friday. We're on the cusp of a huge amount of development and improvement in the city, City Manager Bob Richardson told the overflow crowd at the winter Power Breakfast, hosted by the city of Auburn and the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. You'll continually see projects the next several years, he said. Those projects will include the restoration of the façade of the Old State Theater on Lincoln Way in May, the development of the central square and realignment of the Lincoln Way/High Street intersection this fall, and dozens of street improvements linking Old Town and Downtown. Together, these improvements are part of the Streetscape project envisioned by city, business and community leaders, said Councilmember Bridget Powers. Powers thanked the audience for its part in the progress. It's because of you that we're where we are today, she said. We're here. We're ready. We're doing it. Auburn is able to finance these projects because of vision, careful planning, and project execution, said Councilmember Kevin Hanley. The city predicted the current drop in sales and property tax revenues a few years ago, and embarked on a three-part plan to improve the community's image, streamline city administration and shore up the tax base by convincing Nella Oil to move its headquarters from South San Francisco to Auburn. Now we're looking at a new renaissance for Auburn in a three-year period, Hanley said. But Streetscape is just one of the pieces of the puzzle, officials said. Others include: - Auburn School Park Preserve: The preserve connecting Old Town and Downtown near Placer High School will officially open in May, serving as a business link, resting place and wintertime flood protection policy, said Councilmember Mike Holmes. Holmes said the stream bisecting the preserve held potential floodwaters during recent storms. - A river runs through it: Opening the American River up to rafters, kayakers and others between the Confluence and Rattlesnake Bar is a sleeping giant for the Auburn economy, said Councilmember Bob Snyder. Once parking and transportation issues are resolved, the river run will attract people to Auburn, he said, suggesting the city adopt May as River Month and package events and marketing around the theme. - Large and small retail: Mayor Keith Nesbitt said he frowned on big box stores inside the city limits when he first was elected to the council, but now realizes the tax revenues are key to Auburn's future. Large retail stores such as Home Depot and Costco will attract customers from outside and keep Auburn consumers from driving to Roseville. Those customers will draw the boutique stores into our core business districts, he said. We believe we can create a sustainable community, Nesbitt said. I am confident we have the leadership to do it the right way. The next city-chamber Power Breakfast is scheduled for Friday, June 27.