MainStreet transitioning to ‘Start-Up’

The Belen MainStreet Partnership will be transitioning to the “Start-Up” phase of the New Mexico MainStreet program in late July, according to the director of the New Mexico MainStreet program.

New Mexico MainStreet announced in an email yesterday that the Belen MainStreet Partnership has met all of the benchmarks needed to successfully enter the next phase of the MainStreet program. The new phase will open up the partnership to additional resources and funding.

The partnership was founded in 2009 by the City of Belen, lead by former president and then-mayor Ronnie Torres. The group has been in the “Emerging” phase since then.

The official transition to “Start-Up” will take place on July 25 at a quarterly MainStreet conference in Taos.

MainStreet updates city on accomplishments

The Belen MainStreet Partnership updated the Belen City Council yesterday night about it’s accomplishments. Here are some of our recent activities mentioned during the presentation:

EVENTS FOR THE PUBLIC

Events held and supported by the Belen MainStreet Partnership, which have increased activity in downtown, include:

– Farmer’s Market: MainStreet provides organizational support to Jenniffer Singleterry who operates the market.

– First Footers Festival: MainStreet held a raffle to pick the first footer, had a ceremonial first walk across the Reinken Avenue pedestrian crossing.

– Festival of Trees: MainStreet supported and helped organize last year’s event.

SUPPORT FROM NEW MEXICO MAINSTREET

The Belen MainStreet Partnership has received technical support from New Mexico MainStreet, which has included:

– Completion and submission of our IRS 501c3 application.
– Design of our logo.
– Support for our façade improvement to the former Belen Public Health Department building.

TRAINING OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

The Belen MainStreet Partnership has held informational meetings and trainings, which have brought visitors from across the state to Belen:

– PROMOTION training: Ideas for promoting Main Street.
– DESIGN training: Design purposes and ideas.
– DESIGN training: Tips for successful storefronts.
– ORGANIZATION training: Nonprofit volunteer recruitment strategies.

Belen MainStreet Partnership representatives also attend trainings across the state.

STUDIES

The Belen MainStreet Partnership has organized and supported studies that give us all ideas for improving downtown:

– DPAC: MainStreet coordinated this study with UNM students who designed improvements for downtown.

– Walkable Belen: MainStreet has supported UNM students and the UNM-VC Resilency Corps, who are designing improvements for downtown, which is an offshoot of DPAC.

– One-way street and parking study: MainStreet assessed the need for parking in the commercial areas of downtown.

– Building inventory: MainStreet assessed the uses and needs of downtown property.

– Quarterly reports: MainStreet submits regular reports to Santa Fe about the downtown economy.

PROJECTS

– Rail Runner Tours: MainStreet received a $10,000 grant from the State of New Mexico to promote tourism in Valencia County using the New Mexico Rail Runner Express.

– Rail Trail Brochure: MainStreet received a $3,500 grant from BNSF to design and publish a brochure to promote rail tourism statewide.

– Former Belen Health Department Façade improvement: MainStreet renovated the façade of the building with financial support from the property owner and volunteers from UNM-VC Student Government and the Belen Art League.

– Walking Tour Map: MainStreet designed and published a map to promote a walking tour of downtown Belen, funded by local businesses.

– Rail Fan Guide: MainStreet is designed and will publish a guide to promote tourism to fans of the railroad, giving them pointers on how best to view Belen’s trains.

– Corazon de Belen Community Garden Park: MainStreet has worked with the community garden committee to apply for two grants in support of the community garden project

– Murals: MainStreet coordinated the painting of several mural in downtown Belen, funded by local businesses.

– Belen MainStreet Partnership Website: MainStreet maintains its own website with information about downtown Belen.

POSSIBLE FUTURE PROJECTS

– Restoring the Water Tower: MainStreet is considering organizing a fundraising effort to raise approximately $40,000 toward repainting the water tower.

– Designate the Arts and Railroad Districts: Based on the results of the Walkable Belen study, MainStreet will look at designating two districts – one for art and one for railroad history.

– District Clean-up Day: MainStreet is tentatively scheduling its first cleanup of the Arts District for late October 2012.

Belen’s MainStreet program gets official name

The Belen MainStreet program, which is advocating for downtown revitalization, today decided on an official name for itself: Belen MainStreet Partnership.

In May, Belen became a New Mexico MainStreet “Emerging Community,” which means local businesses, property owners and residents will begin to receive expert support from the state for their downtown revitalization efforts.

Today, the Belen MainStreet board finalized its articles of incorporation to become an incorporated nonprofit with the State of New Mexico. The paperwork includes the new name.

The founding board members listed in the soon-to-be-submitted articles of incorporation are: Claudette Riley of the Greater Belen Economic Development Corporation, Susannah Rodee of the art gallery Through the Flower, Aaron Silva of Elite Muscle Gym and Fitness Center, Ronnie Torres of Hair Innovations (who is also Belen’s mayor), David Blacher of the property company Blacher Family Holdings, Andrew DiCamillo of the City of Belen Planning and Zoning Department, Cindy Clark of the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce and Jerah R. Cordova of the community group Our Tomorrow: For a Better Belen.

Their next task is to write the organization’s bylaws and continue forming focus area committees made up of citizens.

It’s official: Belen’s a MainStreet community

The City of Belen is officially a MainStreet community, after an announcement today by the New Mexico Department of Economic Development at the Heart of Belen gazebo in Belen.

“We really put applicant communities through a meat grinder, to see if they’re really ready to jump in and do something,” said Rich Williams, the head of the New Mexico MainStreet program. “It started about eight months ago with an application process, and it was rigorous. We started out with 17 communities, and then down to 11, and then down to a few finalists. Then we had the last three. We’re very excited to announce today that Belen is coming in as an emerging community.”

Belen’s acceptance into the state’s 24-year-old MainStreet program means the city will receive economic development assistance from the state in areas like historical preservation, promotion of the business community and strategic planning.

The city is required by the program to focus its immediate attention on a limited section of the community, or a district. The application’s steering committee, made up of business owners and citizens, chose to initially focus on Becker Avenue and one or two blocks north and south of Becker Avenue along Main Street.

“We need to make sure that the public and private sectors are working together and that there’s enough passion and concern and care about the historic areas of the downtown to bring it back, to bring it back to life — the vitality and vibrancy,” Williams said.

Mayor Ronnie Torres, Planning and Zoning Director Andrew DiCamillo and Greater Belen Economic Development Corporation Director Claudette Riley guided Belen’s MainStreet application through the process, with support from Sen. Michael Sanchez and the group of citizens who formed the steering committee.

“Some of us had humor, some of us had brains, some of us had personality, some of us had computer skills,” Torres said. “We were able to do it, not for us — we were able to do it for you guys. We’re very proud of it. I just think it’s cooler than heck that we’re a MainStreet community.”

The City of Belen has talked about becoming a part of MainStreet for years, and worked for the last two years to become a part of it, attending conferences, classes and other meetings, lobbying for support among state officials and finally submitting the application earlier this year.

Torres said the MainStreet program will add to redevelopment projects that have already been completed, including the Heart of Belen and Becker Street improvements.

“MainStreet is really the heart and soul of the community,” said Fred Mondragon, the secretary for the New Mexico Economic Development Department. “It’s preserving the downtown, preserving the historic areas of downtown, and improving them. It’s your door to the past, but it’s also a window into the future, where you can progress, where you can bring in businesses and create job opportunities.”

Mondragon encouraged Belen’s residents and businesses to get involved in the MainStreet program as it begins to develop locally.

Belen joins 20 other certified MainStreet communities across the state.