AUBURN | People close to the Auburn Schine Theater can't quite put into words why there's so much optimism about the restoration project these days.
But two words do come up often: Todd Coleman.
Since building owners the Cayuga County Arts Council brought Coleman on board as the theater's project manager in January, he's kept himself busy.
He organized a public information night June 12 to answer questions about the Schine project.
He arranged a July 18 concert under the theater marquee by the Racine Scouts drum and bugle corps from Wisconsin.
And he's reached out to the council's most outspoken critics, rallying them to support the theater at public cleanups that continue Aug. 5.
Cayuga County Arts Council board member Dia Carbajal said Coleman, a project executive with Bouley Enterprises whose resume ranges from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" to the Emerson Park Pavilion, brings both energy and expertise to the Schine Theater project.
"He brings a bright new look at a project worthy of one," she said. "He's someone with the right charisma."
Todd Gaglianese, one of the council's chief critics at Center Stage: Restoring the Schine to the Spotlight, is also impressed with Coleman's leadership. The project manager personally visited Gaglianese at his home and heard his concerns about the Schine, and did the same with the Save Our Schines group.
"He understood some things and made me understand some things, and we shook hands," Gaglianese said. "Todd has the people skills the arts council is lacking in — he's bridging the gap."
Coleman said prior to the June 12 meeting at Swaby's, he printed 3,000 pages of comments from the Center Stage Facebook page and took inventory of all the concerns and criticisms therein — just so he could allay them in person.
Carbajal said that talent for community engagement is one of many reasons Coleman was made project manager.
"He's doing a much better job of that sort of thing and he's made it a priority, whereas we haven't made it a priority in the past," she said. "Turning criticism into action is part of what needs to happen here so we can move forward positively."
Coleman is quick to redirect any credit thrown his way. He believes it is the council's partnership with firms Bouley, Beardsley Design Associates and Crawford & Stearns, as well as its warming to critics like Gaglianese and Save Our Schines, that has given the project new momentum. Among the specific people Coleman cites as forces in the Schine project's rejuvenation are Beardsley Project Manager Edward Onori and Schine building manager Tim Kerstetter.
Coleman's value to the project extends beyond his public relations, Kerstetter said.
"Bouley has been a tremendous help in getting the dates lined up for our asbestos and environmental cleanup," he said. "They bring a timeline and an immense amount of knowledge to pull the project into completion."
That teamwork, Coleman believes, will allow the theater to open by 2017 for music, movies, theater and social uses for everyone from Auburnians to visitors from Syracuse, Rochester, Ithaca and the greater Northeast region.
For now, as Coleman and company map out the Schine's path to restoration and apply for state grants to fund the process, volunteers will get the 1938 theater ready for its reopening after decades of disuse. Gaglianese, for one, will be at the next cleanup.
"It's kind of like old times, back in the beginning, when things were really moving," Gaglianese said. "The energy seems to be back at these events."
Though timing may suggest the June cancellation of the Schwartz Family Performing Arts Center is contributing to the renewed optimism about the Schine, Carbajal disagrees. Instead, she said, it's likely because of the broader climate of progress that's seized downtown Auburn in recent years that eyes are turning toward the theater — and Coleman's efforts are no doubt helping to draw their gaze.
"You can't develop downtown without developing the Schine Theater," the Cayuga County Arts Council board member said. "I just think it's time."