Streetscape will see its end in fall

Project cost him money in the long run, business owner says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The second phase of a project designed to beautify Downtown Auburn is set to reach its end next month. Bernie Schroeder, director of Auburn’s Public Works Department, said Streetscape Phase II construction should be all wrapped up by the end of November. “The project is progressing,” Schroeder said. “We have experienced some delays with the utility companies, primarily PG&E, Wave and AT&T getting their wires off the poles so we can continue areas and getting poles removed for the concrete work.” Undergrounding of utilities has already started and is expected to be completed by mid-November, Schroeder said. On Oct. 19 the utility pole in front of Big O Tires is scheduled to be removed, Schroeder said. The budget for the project is $1.1 million and is paid for with funds from the city’s redevelopment agency, the Auburn Urban Development Authority. Schroeder said the city has been trying to work with Lincoln Way businesses to minimize the impact the construction has on them. “Overall it didn’t have the dramatic impact on the businesses to the extent that the first phase did, and we have tried to work really closely, and develop close relationships and open lines of communication with the businesses,” she said. “So, I think that’s helped a lot.” Dan Luper, owner of Big O Tires, said he is looking forward to the project being completed and thinks it will be good for the area. “I will be actually glad when it happens because it’s a dirty job,” Luper said. “I think in the long run, once it’s done, I think it’s going to benefit Downtown Auburn because of accessibility and new updates.” Luper said he thinks the project is going to make the public want to mingle in Downtown. The company won’t know if its business was affected until the end of the quarter, but Luper said he thinks the construction is something everyone needs to get through. “It’s affected everybody, and I think we all have to bite the bullet and do our part,” he said. Molly Carpenter, an employee at Paula’s Bake Shop, said the construction has made business a little difficult. “We have no parking,” Carpenter said. “They took away our parking. It’s not convenient to get in here.” Carpenter said when one of the contractor’s trucks is pulled forward next to the shop, the face of the building is completely blocked. “People came in the past couple weeks and said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were open,’” she said. While regulars still come in frequently to support the business, other customers come in and say they went to “hell and back” to get there, Carpenter said. Ray Vallero, owner of Vallero’s Machine Shop, said the construction has had an impact on his business. “It actually cost us money in the long haul so far,” Vallero said. “It blocked our driveway for several days off and on. One thing it has done … is it’s hampered the parking. The street parking is horrible now, that’s for sure.” Vallero said the worst thing was that customers thought he was closed and weren’t coming into the shop. Even with the inconveniences, Vallero said he thinks the construction makes Auburn seem semi-progressive. “I think it’s good overall,” he said. “Progress is sometimes annoying.” Lake of the Pines resident Shawn Kobliska had varying thoughts about the project. “It seems like kind of a lot of money to spend,” he said. “I guess it does make it look better down here. (Central Square) looks good. I guess once they finish it, it will be more aesthetically pleasing.” Reach Bridget Jones at ----------------------------------------------------- Recently approved Streetscape costs On Monday the Auburn City Council, acting as the Auburn Urban Development Authority, approved some costs for Streetscape. • An amount not to exceed $10,000 for a services agreement with Gularte & Associates. Public Works Director Bernie Schroeder said these funds are for geotechnical testing, which is necessary when undergrounding occurs. • An amount not to exceed $10,000 for the Sands Parking Lot outside of Vallero’s Machine Shop. Schroeder said the main infrastructure for the PG&E undergrounding is in this parking lot and the city, in turn, repaved the lot, put in handicapped stalls, striped the lot and put in some landscaping. • $15,800 to pay for the rescoping of the project after initial bids came back too high. Schroeder said these funds also paid for additional work with PG&E, additional survey work and the new flagpole in Central Square. ----------------------------------------------------- New additions in Streetscape Phase II • Eight street lights • 29 shrubs • 14 trees • Three plant pots, one left over from the first phase and two purchased by the Downtown Business Association