By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
The heart of Portales — its downtown square — could soon look radically different following streetscape improvements planned within the next year.
Portales city councilors and Roosevelt County commissioners met Thursday to review drawings of the proposed streetscaping spearheaded by the city of Portales and Portales MainStreet project.
In outlining the project, Jeremy Sturm, Portales economic development director, said the concept was to use landscaping and design to create an area that is more inviting and a place to gather. He also stressed that the design, created by Jeremy Alford of the Design Planning and Assistance Center at the University of New Mexico, features more parking than the 180 spaces now available.
“The idea I got out of this is it increases the safe zones,” Roosevelt County Commission Chairman Dennis Lopez said.
Lopez questioned city staff about the loss of bulb-outs at the corners of the square, which he said were put in several years ago to make the area more pedestrian friendly. Sturm answered that they wouldn’t be lost in the redesign.
“All the stuff on the outside would stay exactly as it is,” he said.
The design shows the same type lighting the city has recently installed in other downtown streetscape projects. It shows gentle terraces instead of steep steps leading to the courthouse, and a variety of green areas as well as artwork. One of the more significant changes would entail designating the entrances inside the square for either entrance or exit only.
“I like the one-way-in and the one-way-out,” Lopez said.
The new design would also provide parking for longer vehicles such as those pulling a trailer.
Questioned by commissioners about the landscaping and allowances for the public memorials now on the courthouse grounds, city officials said the memorials were all included in the planning and the landscaping should be equal to what the county maintains.
“We’ve definitely talked about our heritage, and we wanted to keep it low maintenance,” Mayor Orlando Ortega said.
Sturm said plans are to have the project’s impact statements and public meetings done by Aug. 15 to be able to request proposals soon afterward.
“That’s why I think it is important for you all to have some time to study this,” Portales City Manager Debi Lee said. “This will jump-start the process and kind of speed things up. This way everyone is comfortable with what’s being put out there.”
Sturm and Lee said cost estimates, which the city hopes to receive state grant money for, are not yet available.