City officials hear ideas for downtown improvements

By Tony Parra

The reality of a new look to the downtown area and a walk and bike trail connecting Eastern New Mexico University to the downtown area is another step closer to happening.
Community leaders met with students from the University of New Mexico who are working on their masters in designing and planning on Friday afternoon to view proposed designs of areas around the community.
The UNM students have been working on the design project for the spring semester at UNM, according to professor Jose Zelaya. Zelaya has been helping the students.
Debi Lee, city manager, said the students have been making trips to Portales over the past six months to get a feel for the city and what it needs.
“We help communities to start visualizing the renovation of their downtown areas,” Leyva said. “The visioning plan is a set of ideas of what the downtown area could look like. The dream is some of these ideas catch on and are incorporated into this city.”
One of the design proposals is to have a walk and bike route from ENMU down Fourth Street to the downtown area. Lee said the graduate students looked at the comprehensive plan for Portales and took the idea a step further.
“The group did a great job,” Greg Erf of the Portales MainStreet Organization said. “The two things I really noticed was the designing to handle traffic issues in the downtown area and encouraging people to the downtown area with a walk and bike route leading from the university.”
Another design proposal they viewed was a historic walk in the downtown area with plaques talking about the history of Portales. Other design proposals have cobble-stone walkways in the alleys and in the farmer’s market area.
Jim Olsen, UNM graduate student, requested there be a way to attract people to the downtown area and encourage more activity.
“We were looking at doing something with the abandoned buildings in the downtown area,” Olsen said. “There could be small offices or apartments. If you get people living in the downtown area, it becomes more vibrant.”
Leyva said he will get together with design and planning professionals during the summer to fine tune the designs.
Nobody at the meeting knew what any of the plans discussed would cost.
The New Mexico MainStreet Department officials awarded two New Mexico cities with a design and planning grant: Portales and Grants. Zelaya said UNM and New Mexico MainStreet Department representatives have a contractual agreement to provide designing and planning services to communities that otherwise could not afford them.
New Mexico MainStreet is a part of the state’s economic development division.
City officials will have the designs in their lobbying efforts for funding from New Mexico MainStreet. Lee said city officials will be able to present the designs in requests for funding in January or February.