On Dec. 26, 2017, a fire destroyed the Heritage Apartments building in downtown Auburn.
Ever since, while plans for its replacement unfolded behind the scenes, the site has been a conspicuous missing tooth in the heart of downtown.
But, it appears, not for too much longer, said Jeff Tate, Community Development Director for the city of Auburn, with cautious optimism.
“Everything is approved and ready to go except that the owner — Melina Lin —is still negotiating with the city on the cost of the parking spaces they need to get from us behind the building in order to have cars access the building. She continues to swear that she will be under construction this summer. We shall see,” Tate said.
As proposed, the mixed-use building differs in a number of respects from what stood there through nearly 100 years of Auburn history before falling to smoke and ruin.
The project numbers 36 apartments and 68 micro-apartments — an independent unit with its own bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette that shares a larger full size kitchen and living area with another independent unit.
The most noticeable difference will be the structure’s height. Plans reveal a 6-story building, four stories higher than others on the block, the upper four floors dedicated to apartments, and the lower two floors divided between street-level commercial and a second-story parking garage.
“We allowed them to add one more story at a later date because it would still remain below the 75 foot height limit,” Tate said. “There will be several ground-floor commercial spaces that face Main Street and the B Street Plaza to the east, the space that cuts through to Safeway. There are 31 parking stalls inside the building that will be accessed from the backside of the building.”
The Heritage Building, which opened in 1924, had no parking.
Also, the name on the plans is not “Heritage II,” nor is it “Heritage the Sequel” or any form thereof, but “The Divine.”
Property owner Lin was “grandfathered” to build 36 apartments, as that is what the old Heritage Building carried, but because she is proposing an additional 68 micro-units, building codes require her to provide parking for her tenants.
On Dec. 26, 2017, fire broke out in the building’s laundry room. By the time the Valley Regional Fire Authority and other local fire agencies were called in to help extinguish the fire, the second floor of the historic building was gutted, and its occupants and all of the ground-floor businesses were homeless.
For nearly a year, a thin strip of canvas on the fence around the site feebly attempted to shield from the eye what remained post-demolition of the raw building detritus, including chunks of broken concrete.
That lingering mess had been the byproduct of a misunderstanding between how Lin and her first demolition contractor, Harbro Emergency Services, interpreted what she expected it to do by contract, she said.