Las Cruces Bulletin
By: Mike Cook
Downtown Las Cruces has seen the opening of the new Plaza de Las Cruces and the addition of several new businesses in 2016, and Downtown Las Cruces Partnership (DLCP) Executive Director Arianna Parsons expects even bigger and better things in 2017.
Parsons is planning for the conversion of Church and Water streets from one- to two-way traffic and how to minimize its impact on the downtown businesses they serve, and she’s looking for a vendor to operate a downtown trolley service.
New businesses in downtown Las Cruces include Dwell Yoga at 424 N. Main St. and the brand new Dwell Fresh Juice inside the yoga studio; and right next door is Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. Southwest Creative Company photographers and videographers are upstairs at 128 Main St., Parsons said. The Class of 2016, she said, includes Downtown Florist, which moved into 295 N. Main St., Suite A, in late 2015.
Parsons said she’s also talking to four other businesses right now that are interested in locating downtown.
Trolley tours would be a great addition to the downtown area, Parsons said, and could help connect it to surrounding neighborhoods and even New Mexico State University.
She has all the specs for a potential trolley operator – see the box.
Over the next 10 years — which is the expected lifespan of the new downtown master plan adopted by the Las Cruces City Council earlier this month — Parsons said she would like to see five new businesses added every year, a tripling of the number of people living downtown (including the “adaptive reuse” of some existing downtown buildings by adding one or more additional stories for apartments) and increased connectivity between the downtown area and its surrounding neighborhoods and other parts of Las Cruces.
The Church and Water streets conversion project, which will begin in early 2017 and take about 18 months to complete, will “expand the boundaries of what we’re going to view as downtown,” Parsons said. It will also make downtown “more attractive to new business owners,” she said. That’s because in addition to converting both streets back to two-way traffic, it will also result in wide sidewalks, benches and shade trees.
“Eventually, this will make it a lot easier for people to get around,” she said.
In response to a request from Mayor Ken Miyagishima, DLCP staff contacted downtown businesses to determine their concerns about the impact of the street conversion project. Parsons said 96 surveys were sent out and 24 responses received. She said DLCP and city staff are evaluating the responses.
Parsons’ said DLCP’s website has a full page on the Church-Water conversion project that will continuously be updated. It gives the history of the project, its projected benefits, how it’s funded and the 90 percent project plan. Find the page here.
The city has a $45,000 advertising budget to pay for an advertising campaign to keep downtown business owners, residents and visitors informed of the conversion project’s progress.
Parsons said new wayfinding signage is already being placed at about a dozen points in downtown. The metal arches that will hold the signs are in place, and soon maps and facts about the downtown area or points of interest will be added, she said.
And, DLCP has a new downtown walking tour app now available. Visit their Facebook page at Downtown Las Cruces Partnership for more information on the app.
Parsons said DLCP is also seeing success in its efforts to move churches out of the downtown area. There are still six churches downtown, having located there when property values were lower. Helping them to relocate to other parts of the city has been aided by increased downtown development, Parsons said, because that has reduced available parking for churches.
She said the expected opening of a soundstage in Las Cruces will be mutually beneficial to downtown development. With locations like the historic Amador Hotel, Rio Grande Theater, the old post office now used as municipal court, the new downtown plaza and other possible shooting locations, the downtown area “will necessarily lend itself very well to the film industry,” she said.
But, Parsons said, there will also be “a little bit of a learning curve” for businesses to fit film industry expectations.
“If we make the commitment, then we have to work together to make it successful,” she said.
The new plaza, which opened in September, has added “a sense of place that wasn’t there before,” she said. It’s not only become a center for many Las Cruces events like the recent tree lighting, it’s also getting a lot of day use from people who work in and visit downtown and have lunch and work on their laptops at tables and benches on the plaza.
Jose Coronado, who purchased the Las Cruces Community Theater building at 313 N. Main St. in May, is “a wonderful advocate for downtown,” Parsons said. “He’s a great asset.”