An artist’s rendering from Simons Architects shows the proposed $9 million PAL Center for teens in Auburn. Submitted photo

AUBURN — If the current schedule holds, crews will break ground on the $9 million Police Activities League community center in the spring of 2024.

During a City Council workshop Monday, officials discussed the timeline and design for the project, as well as the next major step in the process: public hearings on a proposal to discontinue Chestnut Street as a public way.

City Manager Phil Crowell said Monday that based on previous meetings, officials “know the street closing is controversial,” but said the road would be a safety issue, especially as the center’s footprint will grow. 

“We constantly have kids back and forth in that traffic,” he said. “Safety-wise, we see this as the best way forward, especially as development moves forward on that site.”

Over the next two months, the city will hold hearings on the street closure at both the Planning Board and City Council levels. New renderings for the PAL project show the street turning into parking driveways for the center.

Children play at the PAL Center on Wednesday afternoon in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

John Blais, deputy director of planning and permitting, said there will be no direct abutters affected by the road closure, but it will “disturb connectivity” in larger Winter Street area.


Consultants working on the design of the building said there have been some site constraints on the lot, but the current design would include a building that is roughly 14,000 square feet featuring a full-size basketball court.

Austin Smith, an architect with Simon Architects, said the location is “strategically located” between two neighborhoods separated by a large strip of greenspace and recreational space, and the “building will serve both sides.” 

He said a local contractor advised the team on construction costs, and that with roughly 20% of the design completed, they’ll refine the programming over the next five to six months.

“We’ll engage with the users and make sure we get it right,” he said, adding that the final design should be settled with the building’s users, teenagers, in mind. “We want to have a place for them to be themselves.” 

Megan McDevitt, senior project manager for Woodard & Curran, said the goal is to make a “safe, connected campus.”

Construction firm Landry French has signed on to manage the project, staff said.


An artist’s rendering of the proposed PAL Center on Chestnut Street in Auburn shows how the street would be discontinued as a public way. Submitted photo

During the workshop, Mayor Jason Levesque said the city will hold hearings on the road closure over the next two to three months, and if approved, construction on the center would begin in the spring of 2024.

Construction is expected to take a year, Smith said.

Asked about total funding, Crowell said the it is estimated at $9 million, with $7.5 million allocated so far. Last year, the city set aside $3 million from its share of the American Rescue Plan Act toward the project, which was then doubled by a federal spending plan secured by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who visited the Chestnut Street site.

The city will use another $1.5 in bonds, and the rest is planned through community fundraising.

Blais said the city plans to reuse the basketball backboards from Edward Little High School in the new PAL Center gym.

“That’s fabulous,” Councilor Steve Milks said. “A lot of games won there. It’s good luck.”

The Planning Board is expected to discuss the Chestnut Street closure later this month.

An artist’s rendering shows the proposed front entrance of the $9 million PAL Center for teens in Auburn. If approved, construction would begin in early 2024.

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