An early rendering of the planned AuburnBank building on the corner of Gay Street and Magnolia Avenue

The Auburn Downtown Design Review Committee took its first crack at reviewing plans for the redevelopment of the AuburnBank property on the corner of North Gay Street and Magnolia Avenue. at its meeting Tuesday. 

The committee focused on early plans for Phase 1 of the redevelopment, which includes constructing a four-story, 90,000-plus square foot building on the current AuburnBank location at the corner of Gay and Magnolia, as well as five-and-a-half level parking deck with more than 500 parking spaces. 

Committee members were generally pleased with the development's initial plans, but offered a few suggestions, including possibly using blades instead of awnings on the Gay Street frontage of the new building and breaking up the horizontal lines with some vertical elements on the Burton Street frontage of the parking deck, which will be located on the northeast corner of the bank's 5-plus acres of property.

Construction on the parking deck could start as soon as mid- to late summer if everything stays on schedule, said Andrew Taylor, president of Taylor & Mathis, the developer managing the project for AuburnBank. 

DDRC member David Hinson reiterated the committee's desire for the building's corner at Gay and Magnolia to be "exceptional" and suggested that architects at Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood explore ways to further enhance the design. 

Jeff Slaton, architect at GMC, said he liked the idea and also indicated that the committee's suggestions would be accommodated in updated designs.

The development also showed tentative plans for the streetscape, as well as possible angled on-street public parking along Gay Street. Those plans are still in flux, said Assistant City Manager and DDRC member Megan Crouch, who added that the city is still working through how it would work with the city's streetscape and bike plans, as well as a possible shift in the location of overhead power along Gay. 

"I'd be surprised if there is no on-street parking," said Crouch. 

If there were no on-street parking, Hinson and DDRC member Dan Bennett noted the importance of moving the building closer to the street to maintain the desired urban feel. 

"It's easier to nudge toward Gay Street than away from it," responded Taylor. 

It would be easier to move in that direction because of potential development for Phase III of the project, which would take place on the southeast part of the property on the corner of Magnolia and Burton where the current drive-thru and downtown employee parking lot currently sit. AuburnBank was in talks with a hotel developer, but "nothing materialized," said Taylor, who added that until some use comes along it could remain a drive-thru or possibly be green space. Once it is developed, though, he indicated the drive-thru could be moved to a remote location. 

When construction is set to begin on the new AuburnBank building, the current structure will be demolished and retail bank operations will move to the Operations Center on Gay Street. It will also be demolished once employees move into the new AuburnBank building, which Taylor described as Auburn's first Class A office space. AuburnBank is only expected to occupy 50 percent of the new building, which will also feature retail bays along the Gay Street frontage. 

The second phase of the project could include another three-story building on North Gay that would have ground-floor retail and condo units on the upper two floors, although those plans are not set in stone. 

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