Downtown Auburn - Why change?
So, you heard a new and improved downtown is coming to Auburn. Why? We’ll be talking about lots of reasons in the coming months, but primarily it’s about three things:
- Growth – preparing for the future
- Quality of Life – making sure we have the amenities that make the best place to live
- Preservation – consciously working to keep the character that makes us love our community
Let’s start with growth - the time-sensitive pressure point. It’s coming. Places that used to be ‘out of town’ from Atlanta’s city limits are now considered suburbs.
In the 20-county region, population is projected to go from roughly 5 million to 8 million between 2015 and 2040.
How this growth happens will look different for each community, so thoughtful planning is critical.
Where will new residents live?
How will we address traffic problems?
What do we want?
What don’t we want?
What can we control?
What’s the cost?
Who pays for all of this?
Fortunately, Auburn leaders have been working on this for quite some time. Plans are in the works for a quality of life that support residents and businesses as the city grows.
There has been routine strategic planning through the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Every ten years, per state requirements, cities assess their economy, infrastructure, and land use maps. Regional and national trends are analyzed . The public is encouraged to give input. All that information drives a list of work plans, for each city department. As it happens, 2018 is a Comprehensive (Comp) Plan year for Auburn. Input has been collected and the plan is being drafted now.
In addition, understanding the pressures that will come with population growth, a Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) was developed in 2010. This plan built on the 2009 Comp Plan info by focusing in an aspirational way on the city’s vision. City and community leaders spent almost a year on this, spelling out what makes Auburn good, what makes it great, and what is needed to make the city stable and healthy long into the future.
The economic downturn slowed some of the plan for a while, although quite a bit has been accomplished or is nearly done. Just look around at things you can see, like the Whistlestop Shops, the renovation of the Auburn Center, Bike Park, and some new sidewalks, as well as some you don’t, such as critical infrastructure projects.
Additional opportunities have opened for Auburn’s downtown with the acquisition of the Hawthorne family property. Brothers Howard and David Hawthorne decided their 14 acre, centrally located property could best serve the city by becoming a downtown center. This somewhat ‘blank canvas’ allows for very strategic land planning. A new City Hall will anchor this section of Downtown, and the existing buildings that house city functions can be transitioned into commercial activity.
Preservation of Auburn’s character is a primary focus as plans are being developed. This can be seen in numerous projects, including the architecture of the Whistlestop Shops, The Auburn Center and the proposed Auburn City Hall, which is designed to honor the original design of the Perry-Rainey Institute’s main building.
The vision for Downtown Auburn is a truly community effort. It will take years to fully realize, and there will be milestones to celebrate along the way. Stay tuned for updates, events, and opportunities to get involved!