Las Cruces Sun-News
POSTED: 06/29/2014 01:00:00 AM MDT
It took a little longer than we had hoped to iron out all the details, but we were glad to see the city come to terms last week with the private group Las Cruces Community Partners to build a downtown plaza.
Members of the City Council approved a $5.397 million agreement with Community Partners, which is headed by local developer Bob Pofahl, for the plaza. That will cover the costs to purchase 1.362 acres of land now being used for the Bank of the West drive-up facility at the northeast corner of Griggs Avenue and Main Street, and to build the plaza.
Las Cruces Community Partners will be responsible for designing and building the civic plaza. City Manager Robert Garza said payments to that group will be made in phases, as work on the plaza progresses, and the final price tag can not exceed $5,397 million. The design is expected to include benches, grassed areas, trees, a covered outdoor stage, and some type of water fountain or water feature.
Garza explained previously that there are advantages to having a public-private partnership for projects such as these. For example, the private group can contract for services without going through the more burdensome request for proposals process required in the city,
Funding for the plaza will come from the Tax Increment Development District, an innovative initiative passed several years ago by the state Legislature to allow targeted development in specific areas. It allows local governments to take all taxes levied within the district — including taxes that would normally go to the state — and keep them in the district. For Las Cruces, the TIDD provided the perfect vehicle to bolster downtown redevelopment efforts that had been lagging for years.
The city considered several proposals for its first project with the TIDD money, but settled on the plaza following a series of community meetings when residents made it clear a plaza was the top priority.
We agree with that decision.
While much needs to be done downtown, the first step should be a place to come together as a community, and where multiple events can be held. We have no doubt that once such a gathering place is built, it will attract further development and revitalization around the plaza.
“The city has never really had that community gathering place,” Garza said. “This is a very exciting time, a very defining point for our downtown.”
It is expected to take about 18 months to complete work on the plaza. That seems like a long time off until you consider the city has been working on this for some 25 years.
We eagerly look forward to the day that our plaza becomes the heart of our downtown, just as plazas in Mesilla, Santa Fe and elsewhere are now.