The Alma d’arte Charter High School on West Court Avenue, home base for the weeklong planning charrette for the Amador neighborhood of Las Cruces, is at the beginning of an extensive renovation. So the partially gutted room where 50-plus community members joined city staff, elected officials and the PlaceMakers consulting team on Thursday, June 25 for the opening meeting had the feel of an artsy industrial loft.
It turned out to be ideal for a imaginative conversation about the transformation of an underutilized neighborhood steeped in the region’s agricultural, industrial and railroad history.
The goal for the evening was to explore together the assets and challenges of the Amador neighborhood. What might be repurposed for a new era? What should go? How might new energy be attracted to the area without overwhelming the gritty character its current residents and workers value?
Working off maps of the area, attendees identified spots for potential redevelopment and talked about how to build on the success of emerging small businesses and overcome the challenges of too little economic investment over too long a time.
Get a feel for the evening and listen to three leaders of neighborhood commercial and non-profit institutions talk about their hopes:
Among the themes emerging from table discussions Thursday night:
- Visual and performing arts. Inspired perhaps by the setting, there was a lot of discussion about encouraging the arts and artists, many of whom have established themselves in the neighborhood.
- Safe transportation options. There was enthusiasm for expanding choices for safe walking and bike riding, both within the interior of the old industrial section and on the busy roads on the periphery.
- Mixed-use development. Lots of folks had ideas for attracting the right mix of residential and commercial development appropriate for the neighborhood. What might new choices in reasonably priced rental housing look like? How about converting some of the old industrial sites to “maker spaces” or to new green industry uses such as 3-D printing?
- Parks and open spaces. How might the existing baseball field fit into plans? Should community gardens be expanded?
- Preserving the neighborhood’s iconic characteristics. Particularly the water tower identified with the neighborhood. Perhaps it should be painted in “funky colors,” one attendee suggested, to honor both the history and the off-beat artiness now associated with the area.
- Respecting the need to address the challenges facing the homeless population. Two non-profits provide services to the homeless, including transitional housing, food, counseling and childcare. How might new planning strategies expand job opportunities and provide a broader range of housing and transportation choices for everyone, including those at the lowest income levels?
Today (Friday, June 26), neighborhood residents and businesses are invited back to the school at 5:30 p.m. to drill down more deeply into high-priority topics. Consulting team designers, meanwhile, are already working on sketches for neighborhood planning that respond to what they’re hearing from the community.
On Saturday, at 5:30 p.m., community members are invited back to the school to critique some of those evolving ideas. Then, on Monday, June 29, at 6:30 p.m. the team presents a more refined version of the planning concepts informed by all the feedback.
All meetings are at Alma d’arte Charter High School, 402 W Court Avenue, Las Cruces.
Please consider putting these meetings on your schedule. If you’re unable to attend it person, you can follow progress here on the website and comment in the space below each of these posts.