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.

Udall visits Belen for MainStreet kickoff

United States Sen. Tom Udall visited Belen today to help kick off the New Mexico MainStreet program, an economic development effort lead by locals and supported by the state that’s seeking to revitalize downtown Belen.

Udall met with several business owners in the proposed MainStreet district — the physical area of focus for the local MainStreet program — including the owners of Elite Muscle, a gym and fitness center, Sheroz Jewelers, a jewelry retailer, and Through the Flower, an art gallery. He also discussed economic issues with Mayor Ronnie Torres and Claudette Riley, the executive director of the Greater Belen Economic Development Corporation.

Udall had lots of questions for everyone with whom he spoke, but offered few answers. He made no commitments of financial or political support and made no announcements. Udall’s staff who was present with him in Belen and was holding private meetings with citizens all morning, made it clear he was in town to listen, so he could understand what issues his constituents have been dealing with.

He asked questions about Belen’s history, the business environment, economic development efforts, and construction projects. Torres touted the Heart of Belen gazebo and triumph arch, as well as roadwork on Becker Avenue.

Last week, two MainStreet officials from Clovis explained during a public meeting how the MainStreet program has helped develop their downtown and to give Belen citizens ideas about how to move forward.

Robyne Beaubien from Clovis MainStreet said economic revitalization will be a slow process, with ups and downs. She expressed enthusiasm about the handful of “major projects” Clovis MainStreet has rolled out, including constructing pillars and a crosswalk welcoming visitors to downtown, painting rundown buildings, and hosting an annual wine and cheese event.

“Our group is definitely driven by our volunteers,” Beaubien said.

Clovis MainStreet first began as all organizations start — by getting the paperwork in order. But after that, they began to develop the program by seeking financial support from their city officials and defining their district.

“We also began by building relationships. I think that’s really key,” Beaubien said. “Not just people in leadership, but people on your committees, need to get to know your local — county or city — officials, as well as your state representatives and even those at the national level.”

Beaubien said Clovis MainStreet took about five years to get going, with little to no visible progress prior to that.

“We spent five years building a foundation, getting it financially secure,” she said.

The MainStreet program in Belen is off to a faster start, with the steering committee working to incorporate and build a board of directors. Program officials also see the open gesture of support from Udall as an early success. They are also heartened by the $3 million the city will receive for a pedestrian crossing from the Belen Rail Runner Express station to downtown Belen, which will be vital to moving leisure riders and tourists into downtown.

While Belen’s MainStreet program is in its early stages, the steering committee is now forming four committees made up of citizens who will work on everything from architecture to event promotion.

“The four-point approach that’s going to help us with our downtown revitalization is organization, promotion, economic positioning and design,” Riley explained, continuing, “We need to have committees in those four areas.”

Residents of Rio Communities and even one from Los Lunas have already offered their active support for the program, which shows the interest people across the county have in what’s happening in Belen.

“There’s something about thinking of a greater Belen area as a community, rather than just Belen as a city,” said George Moscona, president of the Rio Communities Association.