New business association envisions bright future for Auburn Boulevard

Auburn Blvd, Citrus Heights

A long-vacant retail store lies vacant at the corner of Auburn Boulevard and Antelope Road, one of several vacant storefronts a new business association hopes to see filled. // CH Sentinel

By Hazel Ford–
A newly formed business association is planning big for the future of a high-traffic corridor in Citrus Heights. The Auburn Boulevard Business Association, or ABBA, is currently working to develop a strategy to help make Auburn Boulevard a vibrant destination for tourists and residents alike.

“Our vision is to make Auburn Boulevard a destination point,” ABBA Chairman Richard Hale told The Sentinel. “We get a lot of traffic along that corridor, but we want to make it a destination for if you want to dine out for the evening or if you need any kind of services.”

A group of 19 businesses, including the Citrus Heights Car Wash, Prestwood I.T. Solutions, and many others, ABBA was officially formed just last year, although the idea for a cohesive team of Auburn Boulevard business owners goes back a bit further.

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The chairman, who also owns Walt’s Auto Service, said the association started when a representative from the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce approached several of the businesses on Auburn Boulevard and organized a few meetings to discuss forming an association. Hale stepped into the role as chair, and the businesses have been meeting monthly and working hard to expand and improve the group since then.

With high hopes for the future, business owners are looking forward to a meeting at city hall planned for Sept. 12, which they hope will encourage many more businesses to join the association.

“This will be the moment that people are really going to realize who we are, and they’re going to want to join in,” said Hale regarding the upcoming meeting. The group hopes to double their membership within a year, tapping into a potential member base of more than 100 businesses located on Auburn Boulevard between Sylvan Corners and the Roseville border.

During the association’s monthly meeting in July, held in a small room at Steve Cook’s Fireside Lanes, Hale encouraged each business owner to spread the word to their neighboring businesses. “If you don’t have a voice or an idea, you can’t be part of a change,” he told the group.

Ideas for the future include aesthetic improvements for many of the businesses through the city’s “Activate Auburn” program, which gives grants to Auburn Boulevard businesses for facade and design updates. According to the city, the first business to successfully complete the program from start to finish was Crepes & Burgers, which opened on the boulevard at the beginning of the year.

Major changes for Auburn Boulevard also include Phase 2 of the “Auburn Boulevard Complete Streets Revitalization Project.” Phase 1 was completed in 2014 and included undergrounding utility wires, new street lights and 230 new street trees, as well as nearly 10,000 feet of bike lanes and sidewalks, from Sylvan Corners to Rusch Park. Phase 2 is slated to begin in 2019 and will continue the face-lift on the boulevard all the way to the Roseville border.

Referencing Phase 1 of the project, Hale said “there’s a lot of great work that’s been done out there, but there’s a lot more to be done.”

Learn more: ‘Phase II’ plans underway to revitalize Auburn Blvd; input sought

Asked about accomplishments, Hale said in a year’s time the group has incorporated as a nonprofit, formed a board of directors, and increased membership to nearly two dozen businesses. His group has also helped provide input on a proposed gateway arch over Auburn Boulevard near the Roseville border and has built a better relationship with police to help respond to homelessness and other issues.

The business association also recently received a $25,000 grant from the City of Citrus Heights to hire a consultant team to help the group network with other businesses and write a formatted plan for what they would like to see take place over the next decade.

Hale said one of his goals is to see every building on Auburn Boulevard filled in the next five to 10 years. “Vacant buildings lead to less traffic,” he said, also referencing crime and transient activity increases when buildings are unoccupied. “Nothing good comes from vacant buildings.”

During ABBA’s July 11 meeting, Citrus Heights police representatives also shared strategies for businesses, churches, schools, and residential areas, called “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.” The strategies involve the use of landscaping, fencing, surveillance, lighting, and alarms to reduce the risk of criminal targeting.

Officers encouraged businesses as well as private homeowners to take steps to protect their property, offering business owners a free crime prevention assessment. “We will be your partner and do everything possible we can to work on those issues together,” Special Operatives Lt. David Gutierrez told the group.

Related: Prominent gateway arch, signal proposed for Auburn Blvd

Looking forward, Hale said more specific goals will be developed during and after the Sept. 12 meeting, but he said the association will have a focus on helping and attracting small businesses on the boulevard, rather than larger chains.

“In the long run we’re going to attract new businesses and new restaurants and new places to do business for your home needs versus going to a corporation,” said Hale. “That’s what we pride Auburn Boulevard in — mom and pop businesses.”

Additional information:

ABBA Planning Meeting
Sept. 12, 6:00 p.m.
City Hall, conference room
6360 Fountain Square Dr.
Citrus Heights, CA

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