It’s an exciting time to be a business owner in downtown Auburn. Over the last 25 years, I’ve had a front row seat to witness the changing trends, landscape renovations and aesthetic upgrades our city has undergone. With that, I’ve come to truly appreciate the potential and resilience of Auburn.
As we reach the middle of our latest renaissance, I can't help but remember where it all started. Old-time photographs of Genesee Street from the '70s depict four lanes of traffic and cars neatly parallel-parked. During the '80s, downtown transitioned into two driving lanes and forward diagonal parking. And now, under regulations from a federal grant, we’ve transitioned yet again to reverse-angle parking.
Despite the mandated parking change, the benefits of this grant are countless. As a result, the Genesee Street roadway is being freshly paved from the South Street intersection to the West Genesee Street city line. Aging utility infrastructures are being replaced, and new crosswalks, sidewalks, decorative pavers and updated signage are being introduced. It's refreshing to see structures that were previously vacant come to life. Buildings that were recently empty have been turned into high-end apartments that people now proudly call home.
As I glance out the front window of my office, I regularly see buses full of people making their way into the Auburn Public Theater for shows. Ticket sales at the theater have reached 12,000-15,000 seats annually, with 65 percent of that attendance being from people who live outside of Auburn. We've seen a renewed and overwhelming interest in the arts, and our many historic sites are being visited daily. With these attractions, our local breweries, restaurants and tap houses are thriving, and new businesses are seeking a downtown home.
Thanks to a $10 million grant from New York state, the sky is the limit for Auburn. The money is going to be used to fund several more projects that will boost our local economy by providing jobs and increasing real estate values. As downtown prospers, it provides local businesses with the opportunity to grow.
With no intentions of slowing down, Auburn plans to introduce the opening of the Schine Theater by the end of 2019. Upon completion, the theater will be designed to host company functions, and will act as a multi-use banquet hall. The old Nolan's Shoes block is currently being renovated into more residential apartments and additional retail space.
By the end of this year, the Equal Rights Heritage Center is scheduled to announce its grand opening, which will provide a common home for the Business Improvement District, the Cayuga County Office of Tourism and Taste of NY. With that, BID and the city of Auburn have hired a full-time manager to start marketing our revitalized region.
As all of this positive change is ignited, some growing pains will inevitably surface. Some of these issues already seem to be resolving themselves — for example, the institution of reverse-angle parking. The initial complaints about back-in parking seem to have subsided and a lot of my customers have already grown to like it better. I would ask that everyone stay patient and keep the big picture in mind. If you have questions, seek the answers from our city officials who have been extremely willing and open to discuss any questions and concerns that anyone in the public may have.
I believe the ultimate goal is very realistic, and I'd like to thank everyone working hard to make it happen. Again, it's an exciting time to be a business owner in downtown Auburn, and I recommend that everyone come down and check it out.