Move will bring bureau to heart of Downtown

More tourism needed in city, councilman says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A Placer County tourism staple is moving to Downtown Auburn. The Placer County Visitors Bureau California Welcome Center is relocating to Auburn’s Old City Hall on High Street after many years at its Lincoln Way location just past Foresthill Road. “I think that the (Downtown) location will help draw people to (dig) into the fabric of the community,” said Jan Decker, executive director and chief executive officer of the Placer County Visitors Bureau. “We have a lot of good restaurants and shops down there and a lot of time if (visitors) stop here (in Bowman) they will kind of miss the town of Auburn.” Decker said over 100,000 people have stopped by the center. The Visitors Bureau should be making its move in two or three months, Decker said. Decker said his current lease calls for about $60,000 a year in rent. City Manager Bob Richardson said although a lease for the Old City Hall location hasn’t been signed yet, preliminary discussions included a rent of $1 a year as well as the bureau paying for its utilities. “From an economic perspective, it puts many tens of thousands of dollars back into the operating budget of the Visitors Bureau and creates much higher tourism visibility for Auburn businesses,” Richardson said. Decker said Richardson’s offer was one he couldn’t refuse. “Our lease was coming up and given the market conditions, our landlord really wasn’t negotiating with us,” he said. “And we happened to be looking for a new home and I happened to be talking with Bob Richardson, and he came up with it.” Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes said he has been working on boosting tourism in the city since he was mayor in 2009, and thinks this project is very important. “My effort over the last couple of years is to get the city of Auburn to make more of an effort to draw visitors into our Downtown core area,” Holmes said. “It’s been my observation and the observation of a number of people that a lot of people who come through Auburn, they may stop at Old Town, but they don’t visit our Downtown area – Central Square. This gives us an opportunity to show off that, especially now that we have phase 1 of Streetscape done, and we are adding more buildings to the National Register of Historical Places that may make Auburn more of a tourist stop than it has been in the past.” It is not apparent at this time whether or not the bureau would receive the same amount of funding from the county with the drastic drop in rent, but Decker said he hopes it will. “It would free up our budget to allow us to do a little more external marketing,” he said. A portion of the county’s transient occupancy tax funds the bureau, and that portion filters down through the Economic Development Department, Decker said. Decker said the Placer County Board of Supervisors would be the ones to decide if the bureau were going to receive less funding. After talking with some of the supervisors informally, Decker said he thinks funding will remain the same. Placer County District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes said, although he couldn’t speak for the entire board, he wants to keep the funding in place. “I can tell you that certainly I will be supporting keeping the funding there,” Jim Holmes said. “It’s important for Jan to do the things he needs to do to keep tourism in our area.” Although the California Welcome Center is part of the Placer County Visitors Bureau, Decker said it is not a state agency, but is tied in with the California Travel and Tourism Commission. Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------- Placer County Visitors Bureau California Welcome Center Current address: 13411 Lincoln Way, Auburn Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday Information: Call (530) 887-2111 Website: ------------------------------------------------------- Public restrooms in Downtown Auburn The Old City Hall is currently undergoing renovations funded by redevelopment monies and public restrooms that are Americans with Disabilities Act accessible will be a new addition. Adele Wise, owner of Wildflower on Lincoln Way, said she is thrilled about the prospect of public restrooms. Because Wise’s restrooms are not ADA accessible, she can’t let her customers use them. “It’s what we need down here,” Wise said. “It’s going to be much more convenient, because we always allowed our customer to use our bathrooms in the past, and with the threat of those lawsuits we stopped doing that.” Leslie Belles, an employee at J.W. Ffrog’s Embroidery and Clothing, said she also thinks the public restrooms would be a big help. “I think it would be great, because we feel bad when we have to turn people away, and we need more restrooms down here,” Belles said. Karen Bernstein, co-owner of Winston Smith Books on Lincoln Way, said she thinks the restrooms will be particularly useful when events like the Festival of Lights Parade come through town. “That, I think, is the biggest help it will be for: the events, not the day-to-day activity,” Bernstein said. All three merchants said they were happy about the idea of the Visitors Bureau moving to the Downtown location. “I think that is great,” Wise said. “It seems to tie in beautifully with Central Square.”