AUBURN — The next steps in the restoration of the Auburn Schine Theater were laid out Thursday during a presentation by the project's developer to the Auburn City Council. 

Currently, the 1938 movie palace is undergoing asbestos abatement, which began about two weeks ago, Bowers Development Vice President Eric Smithers said. The abatement is being funded by an $800,000 grant awarded to the project through the city of Auburn's Community Development Block Grant entitlement funds. 

Next, the city will apply for $1 million grant through the Empire State Development Corporation's Restore NY Communities Initiatives. A public hearing was held Thursday night during the council meeting as a requirement before applying for the grant. Four members of the public spoke, they all expressed their support and encouraged council members to approve the application, which council will vote on during its Dec. 7 meeting. 

If awarded the grant, the money will be used to renovate the theater's exterior, including the marquee and front facade. Then, the outer and inner lobbies will be rehabilitated, as well as the main stage, restrooms, balcony, projection room and basement. 

Starting next week, as crews continue to remove the asbestos, the building's roof will begin to be replaced. The abatement process has to be finished by Jan. 15, Smithers said. 

The whole project is expected to cost $6 million, Smithers said, which is less than originally anticipated. He said he is "confident" the project will stick to the budget.  

The rest of the funding will come from a historic tax credit through the National Park Service, which should supply $2.5 million, and other grants that project will apply for, Smithers said. Auburn Office of Planning and Economic Development Director Jennifer Haines stressed that no city general fund money or local taxpayer dollars have gone into the project and the city does not own any part of the building. 

Smithers also presented a drawing of the theater's proposed floor plan. 

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Schine Theater floor plan

This rendering shows the proposed floor plan for the Schine Theater, which is in the process of being rehabilitated by Bowers Development.  

The black squares located near the main stage on the left-hand side of the drawing represent tables. Toward the back of the theater will be an eating and drinking area. 

"The intent of this is not to turn it into just a movie theater, but have additional (events) at the Schine Theater," Smithers said. "A place where people can eat, see a show, stay and gather."

During his presentation, after being asked by Mayor Michael Quill to explain who owns the property, Smithers said Schines Theater LLC is the current owner. Smithers reiterated that sentiment after the meeting as well. However, Cayuga County Arts Council board Chair Ed Onori said the arts council still has ownership of the property, although, the transfer is "very close to being finalized." 

Auburn resident Diane Napoli said during the public hearing that she supports city council approving the grant application next week. 

"You don't see this anymore," she said of the historic theater. "It still has its beauty."

Resident Allan Finch said he remembers going to the theater with his mother and watching cartoons on Saturday afternoons. 

"The theater was once a beautiful theater and it will be again," he said. 

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