Northwest Auburn Neighborhood Plan aims to foster preservation, revitalization
Can you picture it?
A neighborhood restored with its rich history preserved. A neighborhood nurtured to ensure it is the strong, thriving and unique part of town residents want it to be. A safe, clean, active and friendly neighborhood with affordable housing options, ample sidewalks, indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities, and shops and restaurants in renovated and new buildings—all adding to the value and historic character of the area.
The Northwest Auburn Neighborhood Plan is an opportunity to bring this about.
The plan began over a year ago with a collaborative effort to form a community-driven roadmap for the 1.4-square-mile neighborhood in northwest Auburn. Although full of history and character, northwest Auburn has suffered over time from inadequate housing, neglected or abandoned properties and economic decline.
The vision of the Northwest Auburn Neighborhood Plan is to revitalize the neighborhood through further investment in infrastructure, planning that encourages redevelopment and affordable housing and incentives to attract business opportunities.
Where we’ve been.
Residents, property owners and other stakeholders kick started the process at public meetings held in August and October 2016. About 200 people came to the first meeting, identifying areas they wanted changed and areas they wanted preserved.
Surveys helped residents pinpoint which aspects of the neighborhood were most important and deserved the most attention. Parks and recreation facilities and programs topped the list, and affordable housing opportunities and preserving existing neighborhoods came in second. Many residents expressed concerns about student housing encroaching into the area. More sidewalks, lighting and other infrastructure improvements were close behind housing options in third.
Smaller educational meetings were held at the request of residents in the area in November and December 2016 to explain the proposed zoning changes that were based on input from the first two public meetings. Another public meeting was held in January 2017 to overview the proposed plan, and the City Council and Planning Commission met in November 2017 to review the plan.
Since the first meetings, Planning Department staff have listened to residents’ input to create a plan that preserves the heritage of the area while providing opportunities for enhancements. Whether it’s new sidewalks, more walking paths and recreation centers or zoning changes to pave the way for more affordable housing options, the goal of this plan is to spur improvement.
What we’re doing.
While the plan has been in the works, the City of Auburn has continued investing in northwest Auburn. Renovations to the Boykin Community Center are wrapping up, and improvements and upgrades have been made to Martin Luther King Park, Westview Cemetery and Sam Harris Park, making these facilities more attractive and accessible. We’re also in the final stages of a Parks, Recreation and Cultural Master Plan that will bring several new recreational opportunities to northwest Auburn.
A number of deteriorated buildings have been removed, and repairs and improvements have been made to neighborhood sidewalks and street lighting. Bedell Avenue will be resurfaced soon, and speed humps will be installed on Foster Avenue to solve a long-standing speeding issue. A left turn lane from Martin Luther King Drive to Richland Road will also be added.
Over the years, the City has brought 288 substandard houses up to codes standards and built 143 new houses for first-time homeowners. In February, the Council approved the purchase of 2.2 acres at the corner of Byrd and Tucker that will soon house six to eight new, affordable homes for low- to moderate-income families.
Improvements to Donahue Drive have included widening, resurfacing and installing sidewalk from Cary Drive to Shug Jordan Parkway. The Council recently engaged a planning and urban design firm to envision improvements for Martin Luther King Drive from Shug Jordan Parkway to North Donahue Drive. We expect sidewalk, landscaping and lighting improvements to come out of this plan, adding to the several projects that are already planned to improve infrastructure in the area.
Where we hope to go.
The Planning Department has specifically designed the proposed development regulation changes in the area to preserve the neighborhood while encouraging development of affordable housing, economic growth and restoration of existing historic structures. These changes, along with those implemented with the Downtown Master Plan, also ensure that dedicated student housing developments are not permitted and that families are the focus of most residential areas in the neighborhood.
The Planning Commission recommended the City Council approve future land use amendments to implement this vision in February 2018, and the Council will vote on them at its March 20 meeting. Zoning amendments will likely go before the Planning Commission in May and appear before the Council at its June 19 meeting.
Similar to Renew Opelika Road, the Northwest Auburn Neighborhood Plan seeks to bring about revitalization through investment in infrastructure, incentives to draw in business and zoning to encourage appropriate development. Opelika Road has seen significant improvements since changes were adopted, and we hope the same for the Northwest Auburn Neighborhood Plan study area.
For more information about the plan and presentations from the six public meetings, visit auburnalabama.org/future.