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Photo spot outreach: Design group gathers info for eventual zoning update

Traci Newell, Auburn Journal

Read the original here.

Dec 06, 2022 9:00 AM

The Skyline Archway includes a QR code as part of the Imagine Auburn project, which will eventually create a new vision and new code for the commercial core of Auburn.Credit: Traci Newell

Looking to gather input from as many people as possible, the design team working toward reimagining Auburn’s commercial core installed some physical touch points throughout town last week. The Skyline Archway at Art Park, across from Central Square, was designed for Imagine Auburn, a project which will eventually create a new code for Auburn’s central commercial area. The archway was designed to create a fun photo opportunity and invites pedestrians to do an experiment via their smartphone, said Project Lead Genevieve Marsh. As the collective vision builds over the coming months with interviews and charrettes, the vision will be translated into the regulating plan as part of the City’s Form Based Code project. “The community has a unique opportunity to shape how the Commercial Core will change over time. As the stewards of this effort, we want participation to be fun and time well spent,” Marsh said. “Our community has an amazing depth of memory and tons of creativity. We are working to harness these forces with a carefully thought out approach to designing the future of our town.” In addition to the Skyway Archway, there are two touch-point opportunities to collect input at City Hall and Hershel Young Park in Old Town. “It reaches different people,” Marsh said. “People who are attracted to take a picture in the Skyline Archway is a much different group than those who show up to planning workshops. We wanted a representatively wide group.” Marsh said these physical spaces are one of several ways Imagine Auburn is gathering input for its first phase of work. “We are trying to get a sense of the general attitude toward change,” Marsh said. “How hopeful or unhopeful people feel about the future of Auburn, so we know the temperament of the people of Auburn. We want to be speaking to people in a way that is meaningful.” Imagine Auburn’s efforts will lead to an alternative to conventional zoning that involves tearing down red tape where it interferes with local creativity and cultural flair, and establishing design standards that discourage rampant growth. “Such an alternative hinges on strong communication with locals so that their uniqueness within the framework has the freedom to show through,” said Jonathan Wright, Auburn Community and Economic Planning Director and project sponsor. This public outreach effort comes in the wake of the team’s major effort to survey the buildings and streetscape in downtown and old town. By using a survey technique, similar to what biologists use in the field, the team will get a clear picture of the town’s existing architectural DNA. “Auburn has lots of beautiful old buildings with a range of forms and styles. Getting a clear picture of the DNA will help us leverage that for the future,” Marsh said. “We have a finite amount of space but an infinite amount of imagination with which to tackle Auburn’s long-term design challenges,” said Mariana Hernández-Montilla, social scientist on the team. “Implementing participatory approaches like this initiative actively contributes to converting past challenges into future opportunities.” After the Imagine Auburn team conducts its documentation phase, the group will begin to plan focus groups and a charrette series around March, Marsh said. “We will be doing the (charrettes) differently than people are used to doing here,” Marsh said. “It’s time for a fresh approach.” The Imagine Auburn team invites the community to help co-design the commercial core’s future by filling out the survey and learning more about the workshop via their website. For more information, visit


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