AUBURN — Auburn residents were given the opportunity to share their thoughts on what elements they would like to see incorporated into the city's redevelopment of the 1-7 State St. property during a public meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn on Monday night.

An economic analysis conducted as part of the Auburn SPARKS initiative determined the former Kalet's department store lot would be best suited as an outdoor, public use space. The city recently hired consulting firm Bergmann Associates to design the site, as well as conduct the environmental site assessment. Ted Liddell, a landscape architect with Bergmann, led the meeting. 

During the meeting, the community had the opportunity to participate in two activities to give their opinions and ideas. Auburn students from the Blueprint II program attended the meeting. 

The first activity was a visual preference survey. Those in attendance were shown a series of images, such as different park designs, light fixtures and benches, and asked to rate them on a scale of one to 10. Liddell said the results will be tallied and used to create the overall design of the space. 

The second activity required residents to brainstorm in groups elements they would like to see in the park. Liddell then asked the groups to prioritize their top five "must haves" and "would like to haves." Finally, the groups were given an aerial shot of the 7,500-square-foot park and asked to place their ideas within the site. Each group presented their ideas to those gathered. 

Some of the more popular ideas included green space, a covered stage or amphitheater, public art, a water feature and statues of Auburn's historical figures. 

"No idea is a bad idea," Liddell said. 

Jane Stebbins, the president of the Music United Foundation in Auburn, said the area "lends itself perfectly" as a space for arts, music and entertainment.

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Jane Stebbins shares her ideas during Monday night's meeting. 

Stebbins said she would like the park to be named after Thommie Walsh, a two-time Tony Award winner from Auburn who died at the age of 57. She said an Auburn walk of fame, which would highlight successful Auburnians in the arts, would fit into the theme of the park.

Liddell said he and the staff and Bergmann will take all the ideas from the meeting and incorporate them into several different designs. Then, Bergmann staff will present those ideas at another public meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27 at the Hilton Garden Inn, to get more community feedback. During November and December, the firm will finalize the environmental report and prepare construction documents. The project should be ready to go out for construction bids in January, Liddell said.

In the meantime, two phases of environmental tests will be conducted on the site.        

"Through that process we'll find out what types of contaminates are on the site, if any, and what types of remedial action needs to take place in order for the site to be safe for public use," Liddell said. 

Those findings will be shared with the public during the Nov. 27 meeting. 

Auburn Downtown Business Improvement District Executive Director Stephanie DeVito attended the meeting. She said she was impressed with the ideas generated by the community.

"I think there was a lot of really great ideas," DeVito said. "It was a great turnout. It was wonderful to see the kids' ideas, from the Blueprint group and I think they really came up with some really clever ideas that we haven't thought of."

Anyone who has ideas they would like to submit for consideration can email them to Auburn's Office of Planning and Economic Development Director Jenny Haines at jhaines@auburnny.gov, or Kimberly Baptiste, a practice leader at Bergmann Associates, at kbaptiste@bergmannpc.com.

Staff writer Natalie Brophy can be reached at (315)282-2239 or natalie.brophy@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @brophy_natalie. 

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City Reporter