Officials break ground on downtown Auburn project

John McKenna Jr., of Landmark Development,  addresses the crowd at last week’s groundbreaking. Seated is McKenna’s business partner, Brett Jacobsen. - Robert  Whale/Auburn Reporter
John McKenna Jr., of Landmark Development, addresses the crowd at last week’s groundbreaking. Seated is McKenna’s business partner, Brett Jacobsen.
— image credit: Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

It came at last, the day some hard-boiled skeptics sniffed never would — the official groundbreaking for Landmark Development's Trek Apartments project at the old Cavanaugh block site on East Main Street.

Even a little fall of rain couldn't squib the celebratory mood of the crowd that came to listen to officials go on about the project on Oct. 10, and to watch honchos toss a few symbolic shovels full of dirt after the tongues fell silent.

Trek Apartments will be a five-story, mixed-use retail and residential building, wrapped in a smart, red brick façade. At the base will be retail space composed of large storefronts with ceilings 18 feet high from floor-to-floor, a gym, a media center and a lounge area. Above that, four levels of apartment community living are to be split between one and two-bedroom studios and one-bedroom dens. On the top will be a rooftop terrace for residents.

Long time coming, speakers agreed, recalling the downtown revitalization effort that started in 2003 and 2004 and laid the groundwork for reanimating a moribund downtown.

"We are so thrilled, and as everybody has said, this has been a long time in coming," said Nancy Wyatt, COO of the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce. "Our mission is promoting business, advancing the economy, connecting communities, and you see all that coming to fruition here."

Mayor Pete Lewis recalled four years of conversations in a recession-addled economy during which no projects could get financing and when every day presented a new obstacle. Among those obstacles, the discovery of an abandoned oil tank under the site. That revelation held things up for six months.

He praised the revitalization financing and funding support "engineered" by Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-47th District), which, he said, allowed not only for construction of the adjacent Promenade but also covered the cost of building new pipes, installing new pumps and creating a storm water detention pond that allowed a project like Trek Apartments to come together.

Lewis singled out John McKenna Jr. and Brett Jacobsen, principles of Landmark Development, as "an outstanding, far-visioning group that really understands the need of our downtown."

"We're talking about a five-story building, retail on the base, residential above that's going to change our downtown," Lewis said. He predicted that within a few years the project would add 800 to 900 residents to the downtown.

"When they brought us this deal four years ago, we looked at it as a parking structure that we weren't really sure what to do with," McKenna said. "Subsequent to looking at this development, the City has gone the extra mile to provide us with the incentives that developers would like to see in order to develop in a community like this," McKenna said.

Architect Charles Strizzara described the Trek Apartments as "a mixed-use community, right on the 50-yard line in Auburn ... This is a good day coming."

A patter of rain cut short the speechifying, driving officials toward the shovels sticking out of a mound of dirt trucked in specially for the occasion.

"Auburn, we're on the move," Lewis said. "And it might be considered" — here the crowd joined in, repeating the City's motto — "more than you imagined."

Work should get under way in about two weeks.

The Cavanaugh family was away at Washington State University and couldn't attend the groundbreaking.

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