AUBURN — After sitting vacant for 25 years, the site of the former Dunn and McCarthy shoe factory could one day be the new home of LIFT: Live It Fitness & Training.
On June 21, the Auburn City Council approved a land sale resolution for four acres at 41-55 Washington Street to LIFT owners Dennis and Jessica Kelly for $40,000. The land, which the city has owned since 1994 after the former factory was destroyed by a fire, is assessed at $130,625. The sale is still pending as the Kellys review an environmental assessment conducted on the property by the city. Jessica said what happens next will depend on the results of the assessments.
The Kellys opened LIFT in 2014. The gym offers personal training, groups fitness classes and nutritional coaching. With over 500 members, the gym has outgrown its current space at 321 Clark St. in Auburn, Dennis Kelly said.
"We're busting at the seams," Jessica said of LIFT's current facility.
The couple's vision for the space is more than a gym; it's a lifestyle community. In phases, they plan to construct a 10,000-square-foot fitness facility with a daycare center, a cafe that serves healthy food, residential apartments and commercial space for retailers and specialists such as chiropractors and physical therapists.
"We are excited to continue working on this even though we know this is going to take some time to complete," Dennis said in an email to The Citizen. "Jess and myself risked everything we had to start Live It Fitness and Training and we hope that the community and individuals follow our footsteps."
Added Jessica, "We really just have some big dreams. If you have a goal, if you have a dream, you have to shoot for it."
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The couple's attorney, Dominic V. Giacona, said the Kellys are hoping their project can breathe some life into "an area that needs some revitalization."
"They're hopeful their revitalization will extend beyond that parcel of land to areas that are really in need," Giacona said. "We expect this project to improve the area through gentrification."
Although the land sold for more than $90,000 under its assessed value, city councilors said during the June 21 meeting they were happy that a long-vacant property will soon be developed and back on the tax rolls.
"Now we are going to be selling it with promise and hope," Councilor Terry Cuddy said. "I'm very excited that that property is in good hands and I look forward to seeing what they're going to build."
Councilor Jimmy Giannettino said projects such as this are contributing to "the renaissance of Auburn" and this project will greatly improve the neighborhood, which has "really been suffering" since the factory closed.
"It'll be good to see that (for sale) sign come down," Giannettino said.
"It's about time for that sign to come down," agreed City Clerk Chuck Mason, who was a city councilor in 1994 when the city first acquired the property through foreclosure.
Cuddy said he remembers witnessing the fire at the factory on Dec. 19, 1993, and later walking through the ruins. The fire was one of the worst Auburn has ever seen, said Auburn Fire Chief Joe Morabito, who was a firefighter with the department at the time. Morabito said it took multiple days and departments from all over the county to put out the fire, which was started by several juveniles who had lit a campfire in the vacant building.