A refreshed square, possible big box tenant await

By: Jim Ruffalo
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Relocating the notebook while wondering why the recent state legislative hearing on determining “how California can prevent more businesses from leaving the state” was held at Reno ... Something else that will soon relocate will be Auburn’s very own Central Square. Oh, it’s not leaving town, or anything such as that, but it will get a new look. That’s because the city began taking bids Thursday for work to re-align that five-pointed intersection into a much more traditional four-way standardized signal stop. Bids will be accepted for 45 days, although PG&E is expected to begin under-grounding nearby utilities by the end of this month. Once the street is mostly straightened, work will commence on Phase One of Streetscape, namely the building of the adjacent Plaza, which plans say could seat up to 200 outdoor diners. And should I immediately win one of the state’s various lotteries, look for me to buy the old pub across from the theater and open a new outdoor Italian eatery called Al Fresco’s ... Rumor control: Gottschalks hasn’t officially boarded up its Auburn store and already we’re getting inside info on who may be moving here. At first, it was thought the building would remain vacant for a long time because it’s one of those “tweeners” – you know, a store with a footprint which looks to be about 25,000 square-feet. Too large for some, too small for others. But, as Kmart and Target have taught us, knock out a back wall or two and — presto — instant larger footprint. Of course, that’s predicated on having room to grow, but if you gaze upon the back of the Gottschalks store, it’s easy to see how that could be done there. Which could explain why rumors say at least three name-brand operations are checking out that site. Odd how rumors work, as I was just telling the World Health Organization, but let’s just say that a one-time Orange County department store chain security chief told me Kohl’s may soon be the new tenant. Auburn City Manager Bob Richardson would neither confirm nor deny the latest rumor, saying “it’s entirely up to tenants to make announcements about their operations.” I was going to check in with the Kohl’s headquarters, but can’t afford toll calls. Besides that, the only reason I reported this is to say I was hoping they’d open a bit further down I-80. I’ve always wanted to see a Journal headline saying “Kohl’s to Newcastle.”...  Growing concern: Need additional proof that the citizenry can handle a lot of its own problems if government is good enough to get out of the way? Well, then, check out The League of Ordinary Gentlemen. That minuscule group was the brainchild of Bob Snyder, who seems to enjoy his sobriquet of Bob the Builder. The group came together ad-hoc as an offshoot of the gang which erected the gold mine tower along I-80, the one which subliminally announces that the City of Auburn is just up the road. After a couple of other volunteer projects came together, the little-band-that-could grew a bit. That spurt led Snyder to figure it needs a name. “I took the name from the Sean Connery movie, although I used ‘ordinary’ instead of ‘extraordinary’ because we’re just ordinary,” he said modestly. “We meet once a month to review requests, then pick another project,” he added, then let on that the group may have grown by another member. Seeing as how the prospect is female, will that call for a name change? “No. we’ll leave it as is,” Snyder insists, saying he belongs to the League of Women Voters and hasn’t pressed it for a name change. But I digress. The purpose of this vignette (if there is one) is to say that the newest project is a sort of a Victory Garden. We won’t say where it is in order to keep vegetable vandals and tomato thieves from looting the place. “We’ve received some donations of starter plants from Eisley’s,” Snyder said, adding that the crops will include tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, radishes, beans and the like, and that the fresh veggies will then be given to local seniors, probably through Meals on Wheels. If you want to help out, get in touch with Snyder. In the meantime, I add that another thing growing ought to be our admiration for people who quietly help out others, rather than form yet another organization and start looking for taxpayers’ money. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. He can be reached at