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The future of downtown?

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Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2012 12:00 am

Assistant City Manager Kevin Cowper explained slide-by-slide the proposed renovations in an extensive PowerPoint presentation recently. Cowper, who has a background in city planning, has spearheaded the effort to make the parking lot between College Street and Gay Street both efficient and pleasing to the eye.

Five different scenarios were presented with three being similar by design (3A, 3B and 3C). Some created more parking spaces, but were less appealing aesthetically, while others focused more on green space.

Cowper said the best scenario is 3C since it creates more of an "urban atmosphere" as it creates sidewalks, green space and adds 93 additional parking spots to the already-existing 133 spaces.

Cowper also said downtown merchants had been approached with each scenario and most of them preferred scenario 3C.

Pros of this scenario include maximized parking space (a total of 226 spots), aesthetic enhancements like trees and bushes, an easy-to-navigate parking lot, outdoor seating areas behind restaurants located on College Street and Magnolia Avenue, angled parking on Gay Street and additional entry and exit points to the parking lot.

It would also create a parking lot behind the Hudson Building, which Cowper said could be closed off and used as an event space for certain downtown activities. A similar area would be created between the backside of venues on the east side of College Street and the current parking garage.

From start to finish, the project of scenario 3C would cost $1.31 million.

Members of the Auburn City Council said they were impressed with Cowper's thorough presentation and agreed that scenario 3C was appealing.

Until a decision is made, AuburnBank's drive-thru will remain in the parking lot until construction on the new drive-thru on the east side of Gay Street is complete.

"The next step is to demolish the AuburnBank Drive-thru once they move out," said David Dorton, director of public affairs for the City of Auburn. "That demolition could take place in September. The yellow building will be demolished as well, and that entire area will be converted temporarily to parking until we can start construction on a permanent Gay Street lot using all three areas."

Those three areas include the old Colonial Bank drive-thru area, which is currently used as a parking lot, the old Auburn Bank drive-thru area and yellow building area.

Dorton said the temporary parking will be free, since it wouldn't be cost effective or efficient to install meters only to tear them back out to construct the permanent parking area.

Creating the temporary phase, ideally in September, will cost about $60,000 and create 67 parking spaces. The permanent parking project, also known as Phase 1, is anticipated to cost approximately $420,000.

The rest of the project, which includes creating the space between the parking garage and downtown business and making the two alleyways more prominent and open, will cost $830,000.

Completion of Phase 1 in Cowper's proposal is anticipated for the summer of 2012, while the entire project would be completed by summer 2014.

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