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Auburn Schine Theater non-masthead

The front of the Auburn Schine Theater.

The effort to restore the Auburn Schine Theater has been given another boost by the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office announced Monday that the project has been awarded $1 million through round five of the Restore NY Communities Initiative, which supports projects that will reinvigorate downtowns and create new economic opportunities. Nearly $81 million was awarded to 71 municipalities statewide through the latest round of the initiative.

The city of Auburn applied for the funding on the project's behalf.

The announcement comes a few months after the project was given $1.2 million through the state's Regional Economic Development Council awards in December. Last summer, the city of Auburn allocated $800,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to support removal of the 1938 art deco theater's asbestos and other hazardous materials. That work concluded in January.

The restoration project, which began in the late '90s, is estimated to cost $6 million and conclude by October 2019. Progress accelerated last year when the Schine's owner, the Cayuga County Arts Council, partnered with Bowers Development, of Syracuse, on the project. The council plans to sell the theater to Bowers for $15,000, but is waiting for the sale to be approved by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The office must approve the sale because it holds a preservation covenant on the building until July 2036 due to grants the state has awarded the council.

The Restore NY grant was one of three sources of funding Bowers requested in an April 2017 memorandum of understanding to buy the Schine from the council. The other two sources were the city's Community Development Block Grant funds and the state's Regional Economic Development Council awards.

"This is the final piece we've been waiting for, and now the real work begins," arts council communications Chair Michelle Milewski said.

Milewski said there's been no significant work on the Schine since the removal of its hazardous materials, as the council and Bowers have been waiting for the Restore NY announcement to proceed with the restoration. Repairing the theater's HVAC system and South Street marquee are likely the next steps in the project, she said.

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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Features editor for The Citizen.