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Will Streetscape live up to its $20 million price?

Our View
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Vibrant businesses. Swanky restaurants. Chic boutiques. Cool shops. Funky stores. Hundreds of shoppers looking to spend their time and money in the Auburn Streetscape experience. Build it and they will come. The Auburn City Council is betting $20 million on it. That’s the underlying philosophy of the Streetscape project, a multi-phase, multi-year $20 million public works project to unify the Old Town and Downtown business districts. The City Council OK’d the $2.2-million first phase Monday night. But will they really come? The investment capital, the businesses, the shops … the shoppers? What businesses and shops will attract people to Downtown and Old Town? Should they cater to local residents or visitors? Clothing stores? Restaurants? Markets? Is more nightlife needed? We’d like to hear from you. In 250 words or less, tell us what would bring you to shop more in the city’s business districts as Streetscape evolves. Just follow the writing instructions on the bottom right-hand corner of this page. We’ll publish your ideas in upcoming issues of the Journal. While the vision of underground utilities, improved sidewalks, new streetlights and improved traffic flow might be an engineer’s dream, dazzling lights, sights and smells will bring shoppers and dollars to Old Town and Downtown. It’s been that way for more than a century. Those shopper dollars will help the successful businesses appreciate in value, and a portion of that increased property value should pay off the redevelopment bonds that finance the Streetscape projects. One option for Downtown could be a full-service grocery store similar to the former Purity Market profiled in Monday’s Journal. In the 1950s and early ‘60s the market provided fresh produce, meats and food products at the current site of the Journal on High Street. Trader Joe’s would fit in nicely, as would the Fresh & Easy chain that hopes to open five stores in South Placer and North Sacramento counties when the economy picks up. Such a market could serve the hundreds of homes in the immediate Downtown area, as well as the daily line of Placer High School students looking for a quick bite. Men’s and youth clothing stores could also work well, now that Gottschalks has closed. Art galleries — working galleries like J. Randall Smith’s warehouse space near Community 1st Bank — could draw people interested in seeing art in the creative stage. In addition, a vibrant and attractive performing arts center, its gleaming neon marquee a symbol of Streetscape’s potential, could generate excitement and lure visitors from around the region. The Auburn City Council is taking action to bring more life, and dollars, Downtown. But they cannot do it alone and they do not have all the answers. So please, share your thoughts on what Auburn needs. The city has rightly focused on the mechanics of Streetscape — bond sales, easements, Highway 49 negotiations and more — but the true success of the projects will be in the businesses the city recruits and the shoppers Streetscape attracts. With the current economy struggling to find its footing, now is the perfect time to be planning for the rebound. Will Streetscape be just a pretty makeover, or will it have substance to match its price tag? Share your ideas on how Auburn can prosper well into the future.