AUBURN, Ala.- There are two Magnolia Trees in front of Magnolia Plaza, which is on Magnolia Avenue. Those two trees will not be there much longer after city council granted a permit for sidewalk dining space to the new restaurant, Skyline Cafe.
Assistant City Manager Kevin Cowper said if there was a way for the city to keep the Magnolias there, they would, but the sidewalk has to be renovated, and the trees have to be removed to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Cowper said the owner of the incoming restaurant will be footing the bill for the removal and sidewalk upgrades.
“Rather than being a single-level that is sloped from the buildings to the street, it will have to be a two-level sidewalk in order to to get it flat enough,” Asst. City Manager Cowper said. “We need to maintain certain widths to maintain accessibility. That’s just not feasible with the raise concrete island that surrounds the magnolia trees.”
However, removing and adding shade trees in downtown has been in the works for years. The Magnolia Trees and about 35 to 40 trees of other species (Crepe Myrtle, Holly and others) will be removed and replaced with Princeton American Elms. Cowper said these trees provide more shade than the current ornamental trees in downtown.
Some trees (Princeton American Elms) have already been planted in correspondence with the Toomer’s Corner project. Cowper said the Princeton American Elms are planted using a silva-cell technology, which is an underground root system that allows for placement of loosely-compacted soil, with metal tree grates instead of the raised concrete beds in the city.
Linda Dean of Keep Auburn Lovely said she and others in the group are concerned about the removal of the trees. Dean said the group is concerned that public landscaping is being removed to honor a private citizen’s request. She said the group understands the need for the city to grow, but hopes that it is done in a smart way.
“These trees were deliberately probably 30 or so years ago,” Dean said. “It just strikes many of us that we’ve started something beautiful here with these Magnolias and Crepe Myrtles, and we’re about to bid them farewell.”
The city said the project is slated to get started and completed between October 2018 and September of 2019.
On August 7 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Meeting Room (122 Tichenor Ave), City Councilor Lynda Tremaine will hold her Ward 5 meeting, and City Councilor Beth Witten will co-host for residents of her ward (Ward 3).
The downtown tree plan, downtown master plan and other items are scheduled to be discussed.