Main Street programs hope for downtown revival

By Marlena Hartz

The quaint, red bricks that pave Clovis’s Main Street are at odds with other parts of the downtown district.

Available parking is sparse and obstructs traffic, with spots for vehicles laid at an angle. Minimal lighting, in the form of utilitarian lampposts, bathes tiny portions of the district at night, leaving blocks shrouded in dark. Occupied storefronts barely outnumber those that are vacant.

Yet some historical elements of the district shine through.
The grand outline of the abandoned Hotel Clovis building, once a bustling center of activity, reaches to the blue sky. Art deco designs whisper of a livelier era.

An organization of Clovis residents is dedicated to giving the district — full of potential — the tender, loving, care it needs to regain its commercial clout.

They say the year 2006 will be one of action.

“This year we are hitting the bricks. We will be doing a lot of projects,” said Robin Beaubien, executive director of the Clovis Main Street Program.

Composed of downtown merchants, community members and business leaders, the organization has successfully lobbied for thousands of dollars for the district, also winning the support of the Curry County Commission. It is all in the hopes that the Clovis downtown exodus, a trend seen in small towns across America, can be reversed.

With about $300,000 in state funds, its members plan to build an entrance into the downtown district where First Street and Main intersect. Designs include an archway and landscaping.

The addition will draw people into the area, according to program advocates.

“Our downtown area looks like it’s closed for business,” said President of the Clovis Main Street Program Zala Smith, who gathered private funds for downtown business owners wanting to replace the boards in their windows with glass.

The Portales downtown area, situated about 20 miles from Clovis, also needs some attention.

The city, too, has a Main Street Program. The organization will focus mainly on the renovation of the Yam Theater, according to Danny Woodward, Portales Main Street Program president. The organization also wants to update lighting fixtures, said Woodward, who is a third-generation owner of a downtown Portales jewelry shop.

That streetscape effort has been ongoing in phases as funding has been acquired. It has included new sidewalks and antique-looking lamp posts.

“We want to make downtown a lot more pedestrian friendly. We want downtown Portales to be a place to go, not a place to go through,” Woodward said.

The goals of the two Main Street branches, although separated by miles of grassland, are nearly identical. Indeed, the yearning to build up downtowns that have been stripped down is alive across the United States.

Judy Matthews, who owns a fabric and quilting shop in Clovis, would love to see all the buildings downtown occupied with vibrant shops. She has been in her building for more than 10 years, and though the Clovis downtown area is still alive, it hasn’t yet reached its full potential, she said.

But the shop owner is committed to the district.
“Because of my beliefs — of Main Street being the heart of America — I would never leave,” Matthews said.

Her philosophy is shared by Beaubien and Smith, who ardently believe the district can become a center for culture, entertainment and food — perhaps even second-story downtown housing, Beaubien said.

“The historic part of any downtown is representative of the history of a community. That’s where your roots are,” Smith said.

“If you abandon your roots, what does that say about your community?” she asked.