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Auburn residents strive to restore the heart of their community

Central New Yorkers interested in downtown living can look beyond Syracuse this weekend, where tours of new projects will cost $12 per person.
Auburn (WSYR-TV) - Central New Yorkers interested in downtown living can look beyond Syracuse this weekend, where tours of new projects will cost $12 per person.

In Auburn, there's no charge to take a peek at progress.

Families are investing millions of dollars to rebuild their hometown in Cayuga County, one block at a time. More and more of the amenities of the city are in place to entice and attract residents.

Specialty martinis are flowing at a new bar on the corner of Genesee and State Streets, where live music entertains a lively crowd, and a limousine often waits for patrons who need a safe ride home.

A.T. Walley & Co. is the venture of four men, willing to take a risk and invest in the heart of downtown Auburn.

“Quite a few people would come up and say that there is no room for an establishment like this in Auburn,” said A.T. Walley and Co. co-owner Lee Vanderpool. “But the four of us didn’t see it that way.”

The bar is a bookend for the city’s new Creative Corridor – which includes $2.5 million in renovations along State Street, by a local family with visions of a bakery, restaurants, and new apartments.

“Bringing residents into downtown is what is key to revitalizing downtown,” said developer Joe Bartolotta. “In order to lure investors and retail and restaurants into our downtown, there has to be a component to support those establishments.”

On Tuesday, Bartolotta showed off his newest lofts, above the bar, to members of Ignite, an extension of the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce.

The group of young professionals is hoping to transform Auburn’s image from a rundown prison town to a vibrant destination.

“When that undercurrent of positive energy is there, good things happen and we’re getting away from the mourning that this community has been in with the loss of some of its manufacturing and the loss of some of its industry,” said Ignite member Andrew Fish.

Plans for a new arts center in the middle of the corridor promised to lure visitors to a theater festival each year, but legal troubles have stalled progress.

With or without the project that inspired what has been dubbed the Auburn Renaissance, investors are determined to keep the wheels of the economic engine moving forward.

“This is our hometown. This is where we live. It is where our kids are, where my grandkids are going to grow up,” said Vanderpool.

The lofts on the corner of State and Genesee Streets in Auburn should be ready for tenants next month.

Bartolotta has not indicated how much he'll charge for rent.

Once those projects are complete, the Bartolotta family hopes to revonate two more sections of Auburn next year.

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