By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer
The city of Portales wants to see more people downtown: Shopping, congregating, walking, bicycling, eating and even living downtown.
It’s all part of a master plan to make the downtown area more walkable, shopable and livable.
The master plan and downtown zoning code was presented to a crowd of about 30 people on Monday night at the Memorial Building by Lee Einsweiler of Code Studio of Austin, Texas, a company hired by the city to design the plan. In two weeks, the public will have an opportunity to give input during a public hearing on this change-in-zoning plan on May 19 at City Hall.
“This plan promotes high density and walkability, living and working in the downtown area,” said Portales City Manager Debi Lee, who added that Portales is the only town in New Mexico that has been awarded an $85,000 governor’s Liveability Innovation Fund grant.
Lee noted that any changes in zoning will not affect any existing businesses. She said the plan is primarily for new development.
According to Einsweiler, the plan focuses on areas that should have activity and proposes to get people downtown and keep them downtown through “more intense downtown buildings” which are two to three stories high and have commercial use on the lower levels with possible residential uses on the upper levels. This will also include townhouses and/or condominiums.
“We want people living right in the core of downtown. We’re talking about having people to support restaurants and shops at night, the ability to have more restaurants and more activities downtown in general,” he said.
Targeted areas would include the Roosevelt County Courthouse, the train depot, the Portales Inn, gateways into town and their connectivity to Eastern New Mexico University.
“The concept is to get university students to walk or bike to the downtown area through a sharrow path that would be painted along Third or Fourth Streets,” Lee said.
Einsweiler said downtown residential places would most likely attract senior citizens, ENMU students and young couples with no children.
The masterplan has been a year in the planning utilizing a $600,000 new design plan already in the works for the Roosevelt County Courthouse area.
The plan which Code Studio presented calls for a blast back to the past on the courthouse square, to restore the greenery and lawn that once graced its south side and spread out parking in other walkable areas.
Portales business owner, Sharon Davis, questioned the courthouse plan in light of local water conservation efforts. Einsweiler responded, “You will still have your xeroscaping projects in certain places, but in these parts, where there are a lot of wide open areas with not much trees, the best place to have that greenery is downtown.”
Also discussed on Monday night was city proposals to make Main Street a two-way street, putting a stoplight at Main and Second streets and a discussion on problematic streets which Einsweiler recommended be rerouted. Specifically, he talked about a small side street behind the office of Dr. Charles Brooks which then cuts across to U.S. 70 in front of Calton Furniture.
Eventually, the master plan will target other districts in the areas of ENMU and by Wal-Mart, according to Lee who said, “We really need public input so this plan will reflect what the town, community and property owners want.”
View the downtown masterplan and give your input
• Copies are available for viewing at Portales City Hall
• By next week, the masterplan can be viewed online at www.portalesnm.org
• Public input is welcome and encouraged during a Portales City Council hearing at 5 p.m. on May 19 at Portales City Hall.