Some devoted members of the Auburn family are upset about a mixed-use development across from Toomer's Corner, including residential condos beginning at $2 million.
Real estate company Three Sixty recently updated the public on the plans for the property, which will replace what was once Bourbon St. Bar on North College Street with a five-floor building featuring a ground-floor restaurant and ten luxury condos.
Bourbon Street Bar, previously a popular nightlife destination among Auburn University students, has been vacant since the summer of 2020 after permanently closing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The newest plans for the property include outdoor dining space and a rooftop available for reservation by condo owners and private events.
When a popular Auburn media page on Facebook shared the updated plans for the property, the post quickly flooded with hundreds of sad and angry reactions and comments of disapproval.
"I'm so glad my daughter is already finished at Auburn," one woman said. "It was the loveliest village, and these high-rise buildings have changed that."
"Currently wishing there was a [vomit] reaction emoji for this," said another. "What a mess they have made of downtown Auburn."
Another commenter feared Auburn was becoming too similar to Tuscaloosa.
"I love Auburn, but who in their right mind [would] pay 2 million dollars for a penthouse right in the middle of town?" she asked. "During football season, I guess it could be great, but the rest of the time I don't see the attraction. They are [slowly] turning Auburn into Tuscaloosa, and it's sad."
And Tuscaloosa was not the only comparison.
"Let's just turn Auburn into a little Atlanta," suggested one person.
"Good lord," said another. "$2M for a condo. Trying to turn Auburn into California. Pathetic that the city continues to approve these projects."
Others, however, seemed to support the plan.
"This old building has seen a lot of Auburn history over the last 100 years," one woman said. "A new building needs to be put here that will serve Toomer's Corner well for the next 100 years. This design and business plan is an ideal use for that area. If it were my property, I'd also be maximizing the land and building to 75 [feet], as allowed by city ordinance. But I agree with the sentiment that the new height as compared to current adjacent buildings will be a STARK contrast."
The development's planners revealed their initial plans to Auburn's Downtown Design Review Committee last year. An architect told the committee that even though the building shares a wall with what is now Whataburger on 101 North College Street, the building next door would be demolished, and a new 75-foot-tall building would go up in its place.
Currently, 75 feet is the legal limit on buildings in the College Edge Overlay District (CEOD), which surrounds the portion of North College Street from around Samford Lawn to the railroad tracks that run parallel to Opelika Road and Bragg Avenue.
Building height has been a contentious issue in Auburn city politics over the last decade.
Former Auburn Mayor Jan Dempsey formed the Urban Core Task Force in 2006, which recommended the Auburn City Council raise the existing 60-foot height limit on buildings in the COED to 66 feet to accommodate a typical five-story building. The council adopted its recommendations in 2007.
The council again raised the height limit to 75 feet in 2010 per the recommendations of former Mayor Bill Ham, Jr.'s Downtown Study Committee.
In 2015, the city adopted the Downtown Master Plan (DMP), which kept the height limit at 75 feet to "preserve and expand the existing charm and sense of scale of the City's Historic core as a shopping, dining and entertainment district" and the city council reduced the maximum building height in the CEOD to 65 feet in 2016.
Nevertheless, according to a spokesperson with the Auburn Planning Commission, the council again brought the height limit back up to 75 feet in 2017.
Three Sixty listed associate broker and realtor Diana Ramage as the point of contact for the project.
"I am excited about the beautiful living spaces this project offers, as well as the culture, job growth, and tax revenue the local economy will receive through the restaurant and event space on the bottom floor and rooftop of the building," Ramage said in a statement to 1819 News.
Repeated attempts to contact Auburn Mayor Ron Anders to get his perspective on the project were unsuccessful.
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