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City’s history in 22 themes

Project could take 20 years to complete
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn’s unique story will come alive in 22 themed zones. Harvey Roper, a member of the Streetscape History and Art Advisory Committee, said the point of the Streetscape project is to give visitors and residents a sense of the history of Auburn. “The concept was, ‘How do you tell the story of Auburn?’” Roper said. Streetscape is a street beautification and improvement project connecting Old Town and Downtown Auburn. The project has two parts: construction phases and themed zones. There are about 10 projected construction phases running from lower Lincoln Way up High Street. These phases include sidewalk and street overhauls as well as underground pipe replacements and storm drain improvements. Construction phase 1 included the Central Square area. This phase cost about $2.2 million, according to Roper. The phases are funded through the Auburn Urban Development Authority, which takes a percentage of residents’ property taxes and reinvests them in city projects, Roper said. Roper said the Streetscape History and Art Advisory Committee is hoping phase 1 will be totally completed by the end of August. Remaining work includes filling art pedestals, installing interpretive signs and etching names on sidewalk tiles across the street from the square. Phase 2 is scheduled to run from the edge of Central Square down to Pine Street, and is expected to cost around $1 million, Roper said. The themed zones span all of Downtown and Old Town. The themes include the American River, agriculture, the courthouse, endurance sports, churches, transportation, medicine and more. “We have everything covered from gold miners, to public safety, to the railroads,” Roper said. The Central Square phase includes the American River, endurance sports, Nisenan Indians, Gold Rush and sports/athletics themes. The sports/athletics theme falls in front of Wells Fargo Bank and the committee plans to recognize groups like the Auburn Little League team that went to the World Series in the 1950s, Roper said. Roper said the committee wants to use all of the amenities that are already in place in Auburn to help tell its story. Phase 2 is scheduled to include the arts/culture theme and incorporate the State Theatre building. The Veterans theme will incorporate the Veterans Memorial Hall on East Street, Roper said. “Somebody has the ability to look at all the veterans stuff and go to the Veterans Hall and see more,” Roper said. Themes will be represented through items like tiles etched with the names of Auburnites who made history nationally and around the world, plaques, miniature monuments and more. While the urban development authority fund is paying to include different themed items in construction phases, Auburn’s business associations would fund items on upper Lincoln Way and in Old Town, Roper said. The transportation theme on upper Lincoln Way would include a reference to the railroad, because the street was once called Railroad Street, according to Roper. “There are people coming to town that are railroad buffs, so how can we address (that) this is Railroad Street?” Roper asked. Roper said the committee has enough funding to get them through construction phase 2, but because property taxes are lower, it is not clear when the Streetscape project as a whole will continue or be completed. “Right now we have enough money in the bank to complete phase 2, and then we have to wait until the property values improve to fund additional projects,” he said. The entire Streetscape project could take 15 to 20 years to complete, but Roper said he is excited for the day when everything is finished. “I’m looking forward to walking down (here) when I’m 80 years old and being proud of what I see,” he said. Auburn resident Kristina Perry, a member of the Streetscape committee, said she thinks the project is already bringing people together, because she noticed Central Square is full of people at night. “I think I’m most excited about creating something that will draw people to Old Town and Downtown,” Perry said. “I’m excited to see the art section … to see what we come up with and how that pans out.” Roper said the committee wants to consider the opinions of residents and business owners when future themes are carried out. Anyone interested in suggesting names or ideas can fill out a Historical Notable People, Places and Events form found under the Streetscape section of the City Projects tab on auburn.ca.gov. Ronit Compton, who was visiting Auburn from Hawaii Friday, said she thought Central Square was beautiful, and she liked the idea of more themed areas throughout the city. “I think the historical part is really interesting,” Compton said. John Del Barga, who owns a house in Auburn but resides in New Mexico, said he would rather see the money go toward cleaning up several apartment complexes in the city. “If they want to make things right, they should spend their money on that,” Del Barga said. “I think (the project) is a waste of taxpayers’ money. I think the story is already here. The history is already here. Why spend the money? “ Auburn resident Sam Tracy said he likes the idea of telling the story of Auburn. “I think it’s actually really cool, because a lot of people who live here don’t even know (Auburn’s history),” Tracy said. “With what they have done now (in Central Square) I think it’s made the place a lot more interesting.” Tracy said although the amount is high, he doesn’t mind the city spending funds on the project. “Whenever a cost like this is mentioned, I cringe … but a lot of money has been spent before on things that are a lot smaller and insignificant,” he said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com