The owner of the Auburn Schine Theater told the city in October that the historic building's deteriorating marquee would be removed that fall, rehabilitated in the winter and reinstalled by spring.
As of this week, however, the marquee has yet to be removed. Several of its white panels are still missing, and pigeons are still roosting amid the warped and rusted metal bones of the structure.
What caused the delay is unclear, as the Schine's owner, Bowers Development, has declined comment on the project outside of a brief statement to The Citizen.
"There are many positive developments taking place but it would be premature to comment on these (questions) at this time," Bowers Vice President Michael Licata said in an email.
The questions mentioned by Licata concerned not only the marquee, but other areas of the theater scheduled for work last fall, winter and spring. The East Syracuse developer's president, Bryan Bowers, outlined the schedule in an October presentation to Auburn's Historic Resources Review Board. He said the front entrance, ticket booth and lobby would be rehabilitated that winter, which also has yet to happen. The status of scheduled work on the front masonry, chimney stack and auditorium is unknown as a result of Bowers declining comment.
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However, further information about those "positive developments" was made available to The Citizen by Jennifer Haines, the director of the city's Office of Planning & Economic Development.
In a Wednesday email to The Citizen, Haines said she was informed by Bowers in July that it has retained the services of SWBR Architects, of Rochester, to complete the final design work on the project. That work is scheduled to be completed over the next couple months, and includes all interior improvements, heating, ventilation and air conditioning replacement, and acoustical engineering. From there, the developer will begin the final phase of rehabilitation work. It looks forward to completing the estimated $6 million project by spring or summer of 2022.
The Citizen also asked the developer whether it still qualifies for a $1.2 million state grant awarded through the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council in 2017. According to paperwork Bowers filed with Empire State Development, which is administering the grant, the developer had until April 1, 2020, to submit expenditures for reimbursement. That deadline was then extended until June 2021. A representative of Empire State Development told The Citizen in July that the project still qualifies for the grant, but did not provide a new deadline.
Likewise, Haines said, the Schine still qualifies for another $1 million from the state in the form of a Restore NY Communities Initiative grant awarded to the city on the project's behalf in 2018.
However, Bowers owes $9,186.55 in city, county and school district taxes from 2020-2021, city Treasurer Robert Gauthier told The Citizen on Wednesday, plus another $1,380.13 in city taxes from 2021-2022. The developer owed a similar amount last year, prompting the listing of the Schine property in a tax sale, but Bowers paid the debt by that October.
Meanwhile, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation told The Citizen there have been no changes to the status of the project, but did not provide further comment. The office holds a preservation covenant through July 25, 2036 on the Schine, and therefore must approve any changes there, as a condition of grant money the state has awarded the project.
In October, Licata told The Citizen that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the developer's progress on rehabilitating the Schine — and prompted Bowers to reevaluate precisely how it will do so.
"Because of the way that the public will assemble in the near future, we have to look at all uses that will make the theater viable," he said.