Last week MainStreet de Las Vegas hosted an Open House to inform the public about the Great Blocks on Mainstreet Project. Presenters included three professionals with outstanding credentials. Their commitment to excellence informs the process as MSLV begins planning for future improvements in the target areas of Railroad and Lincoln.
Charlie Deans, AICP, is a project consultant with New Mexico MainStreet who was instrumental in assisting the city and MSLV with the Downtown Action Plan five years ago, which assigned priority projects for Las Vegas’ downtown. Since that time, Valencia Parking Lot was developed in Old Town, the Breezeway was roofed in and improved, and E. Romero Fire & Hose Building has been saved and renovated. Charlie is the owner of Community By Design, a firm that has produced groundbreaking work to define and implement planning, design and building practices that enhance and regenerate the environment, culture, and economics of place. His company’s goal is to inspire community partners to discover and create vital and sustainable places to live, work and play.
George Radnovich, ASLA, Senior Principal – Landscape Architecture, is a founder and partner of Sites Southwest. He has supplied a broad spectrum of planning and design expertise to both public and private sectors. Through his professional practice, he has developed an approach to land and landscape design that stems from ecology and integrates into the built environment. George is most well-known for his efforts to create a more regional approach to the site and landscape through his work with water conservation, xeriscape, and green building. He has lectured at workshops and conferences throughout the Southwestern United States on the subject.
Victor Trujillo, ASLA, RLA, landscape architect and designer has a strong interest in public spaces, outdoor recreation, and sustainable landscapes. Prior experience in landscape construction and administration guides his work on many public sector projects around the state, including parks and open spaces, playgrounds, sports fields, multi-use trails, and environmental restoration sites. He values every opportunity to learn more about current issues in the field, from accessible design to water harvesting. Victor is well-versed in low-impact design methods for the Southwest.
I asked MSLV Executive Director Cindy Collins’ to elaborate on the topic of the Open House. Below are her responses to questions about the Great Blocks on MainStreet Project.
Q. What is the Great Blocks on MainStreet Project?
A. Great Blocks on MainStreet is an opportunity awarded to MainStreet de Las Vegas from the New Mexico Economic Development Division to develop construction level plans and then find funding to implement a project that will improve and support new development to a district with lots of opportunity. A great street welcomes locals and visitors to shop, eat, walk, bike and experience great street events.
MSLV chose two blocks in the Historic Railroad District in Las Vegas with the most potential and most opportunity for redevelopment: East Lincoln between Grand Avenue and Railroad Ave. and Railroad Avenue between East Lincoln and East Douglas. East Lincoln Avenue is the widest Avenue in downtown Las Vegas because it was the route of the original horse drawn trolley (and later the electric trolley) that began at the Railroad Depot and ran through Douglas Avenue to the Plaza Park. East Lincoln had to be wide so that the trolley could turn around. The plans will celebrate the width of the street to accommodate future events and make it a beautiful destination and gateway to the Railroad District. With the purchase of the Castaneda in 2014, renovations have taken place including Rough Rider Antiques, Wells Fargo Building, Buena Vida Health and Wellness, and Stuff. Three more buildings are currently being renovated or have plans for renovation and new businesses: Rawlins Building, Martha Johnsen’s new antique cooperative, and Moonlight Welding Building into an artist live/work studio. The Great Blocks project will support these owners’ investment and encourage more businesses to open and create a vital and beautiful district.
Q. What does development entail?
A. Streetscape can mean everything from the surface paving of streets, lighting, landscaping, bike paths, trash cans, drainage/water harvesting. All must be carefully planned to respect the history of the Railroad District while looking toward the future. Landscaping is important and our hope is that the effluent water line can be extended from Lincoln Park to water future trees and landscaping.
Q. How long has this been in the planning?
A. We competed with other MainStreet Communities in New Mexico and received the award in November 2015. N.M. MainStreet hired Sites Southwest, an engineering and landscape design firm in Albuquerque. Sites Southwest has until June 15 to complete construction level drawings. Four meetings have taken place and included: City of Las Vegas, N.M. Historic Preservation Division, NM Department of Transportation, stakeholders and MainStreet de Las Vegas. Our priority is to celebrate the history of the Railroad District, accentuate the width of East Lincoln Avenue and to provide a beautiful and pedestrian friendly atmosphere for events, future retail businesses and artist live/work studios.
Q. What is the projected cost?
A. Right now we are about 35 percent done in the planning and will have costs in about a month when plans are 65 percent complete. Raton began this process more than a year ago and now has a cost estimate of about $1 million. It is working with NM MainSrreet to identify funding sources to complete the project. N.M. Capital Outlay is one source of funding and, as with other funding sources, you can’t get dollars to implement a project unless you have full construction level documents and a plan.
Q. How can the community make this happen?
A. On March 3 we invited the public to a community open house to see the first draft of plans. About 40 locals attended including owners of buildings in the Railroad District, artists, downtown business owners, and city officials. Great suggestions were made about trees, lighting, events and maintaining the width of East Lincoln to showcase the historic depot at its end. When additional plans are complete, I will share them with the community of MainStreet de Las Vegas Facebook page and in the Optic to ask for more feedback. We have been given an opportunity to improve this once vibrant historic district in Las Vegas. We took the opportunity and know it will result in new businesses, new jobs and pride.
For more information about The Great Blocks on Mainstreet Project, contact Cindy at MainStreet, 505-617-6800, or drop by her office in the historic depot, 500 Railroad Avenue.