Auburn (WSYR-TV) - When you think of Auburn, what comes to mind? For many people, it’s the state prison. But if you haven’t been to Auburn lately, you may be surprised to find out that it’s being transformed into one of the key centers for musical theater in the nation.
A new hotel that is the first of the newly designed Hilton Garden Inns may be a sign of changing times for Auburn.
Mike Falcone is a general partner. He said he changed his mind when local foundations wanted to invest in the community and a market study showed that the theater could become a major draw for tourists.
The Emerson Foundation pledged millions and, starting next spring, the centerpiece of the plan begins to take shape as construction begins on the site of old Kalet Building – a 365 seat theater, attracting major shows, putting Auburn on par with places like Niagara on the Lake.
The Bartalotta family bought six buildings surrounding the theater location on State Street. They plan to put loft apartments upstairs and stores and restaurants on street level.
At the Hilton Garden, Mike Falcone says his company will build the new theater and expects it to be finished in time for tourist season 2014.
Of the 29 partners Falcone took on, 20 are from Auburn.
Community leader estimate that more than 100,000 people will come to the community, mostly from the northeast to go to plays in Auburn and the tour wineries and visit places like nearby Skaneateles.