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.

Local wants a renovated, vibrant Central Hotel

The two-story Central Hotel is an eyesore on Belen’s historic Becker Avenue. The roof is caving in, windows are boarded up and the brick and cement are cracking to pieces.

What was once an historic hotel has been abandoned for years. But now Tom Greer, a local developer and investor, wants to buy it and turn it into a vibrant bed and breakfast.

“Without historic lodging or without that kind of draw in the historic area we get what I call drive-by tourism,'” Greer said. “They eat at McDonald’s, they fill up their tank, and they go on down the road because they don’t have a place to stay.”

He said people don’t stay long enough in Belen to allow themselves to discover gems like Pete’s Cafe or the Belen Art Gallery.

Just across the street from the Central Hotel is an example of his vision. Artists Judy Chicago and her husband Donald Woodman renovated the Belen Hotel, which is very similar in size to the Central Hotel, although Chicago and Woodman use their hotel as a private residence.

Several weeks ago, when MainStreet officials visited Becker Avenue, which is a part of the city’s proposed MainStreet district. The head of the program, Rich Williams, lamented the decay of the Central Hotel as “demolition by neglect.”

Williams and other officials say Belen doesn’t have much time to save it. While the owners of the hotel want a couple hundred thousand dollars for the structure, the cost to renovate it would be substantial. Greer said he will seek investors.

He is hoping, in time, he’ll have purchased the hotel and begun to restore it.

“It’s one of the few buildings that’s in the actual overlap of the quarter-mile circle for the Rail Runner and the historic district plan,” said Greer. “It’s an integral part of what we need to do. It’s an uphill battle in this economy, but it’s something we’re working on.”