Downtown Auburn gets California Welcome Center

Placer County Visitors Center opens on High Street, just off Central Square
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Downtown Auburn will become even more welcoming on Monday. After more than a year of planning and preparation, the California Welcome Center and Placer County Visitors Center is moving from the Foresthill exit to a city-owned building on Lincoln Way, just off Central Square. Movers and staff were working late last week to make the location shift as smooth as possible. And even while the office was closed, people poking their heads in the door were greeted with a warm welcome. Jan Decker, CEO of the Placer County Visitors Bureau, said Friday that the doors will open Monday after three days of moving. “We’ll hit the ground running,” Decker said. “As people realize where we are it will attract visitors to the heart of the Auburn community and help them to decide to spend more time here.” When the city of Auburn and the non-profit, Placer County funded tourist bureau first reached agreement for a move into the former Boys & Girls Club of Auburn space for a nominal $1-a-year lease, both sides were anticipating an opening within two or three months by the summer of 2011. But the move-in was hampered for several months by water-seepage problems in the building. The Old City Hall building was constructed in the 1930s and recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The space the Welcome Center is moving into was originally a bay for fire-trucks. Before moving in, the bureau and the city realized they would have to find the source of a flow of water that started at the back of the building and pooled at the front, on the High Street side. Decker said that the city was diligent in finding and curbing the water flow. While the move from the 13411 Lincoln Way site was delayed, Decker said staff and volunteers were looking forward to their new, more spacious quarters. Among the improvements are a conference room, more storage and a phone switching system. In preparation for Friday’s work by movers, state workers installed new pamphlet storage racks and a flat-screen TV for tourists at the Downtown Auburn location. Another plus will be a drop in rent, from the $60,000-a-year currently being paid at the former Dairy Queen building. “The wait has been worth it when you see what we have now,” Decker said. The addition of the tourist center to the Downtown Auburn commercial area is also a boon to nearby businesses without American’s With Disabilities-compliant restroom facilities. The tourism office, because of its links with the California Welcome Center program, is required to have public restrooms that are ADA-compliant . Al Lauer, of Cherry Records in Downtown Auburn, said that business owners have been forced to refuse customers the use of restrooms because of concerns about lawsuits over non-compliance issues. “It’s a scary proposition ,” Lauer said. “We have people all the time and have to say there are no public restrooms.” Hours at the new location are the same as the old: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sundays.