Reimagining Amador holds big reveal
By Alta LeCompte
Las Cruces Bulletin
Abandoned cotton trailers from the Harvey Gin near the railroad tracks may have a future as the West Amador Avenue area reinvents itself.
The tracks, in fact, become the gateway to the historic agricultural, industrial and residential neighborhood.
Susan Henderson, principal of the planning and design consulting firm PlaceMakers, introduced the idea for the gateway, which she called Gin Plaza, to a crowd of neighborhood stakeholders Monday evening June 29, at Alma d’Arte School.
The gateway would be constructed by piling cotton trailers on top of one another and dressing them up with colorful signage, Henderson said.
Her presentation was the culmination of four nights of public input for Amador Proximo, reimaging the Amador Avenue neighborhood west of the railroad.
More than 200 residents, business owners, leaders of nonprofits located in the area, city officials, real estate professionals and developers took part in the input sessions, collectively known as a charette. The process began Thursday, June 25, and will end in a month when the consultants give their written recommendations to the city government Henderson said the Gin Plaza at the intersection of Amador Avenue will be a homage to the neighborhood’s agricultural and industrial history and an invitation to millenials who crave an eclectic vibe in which to explore, live, work and recreate.
Building on the “gritty”brand
The charette focused on the neighborhood bounded by West Hadley Avenue, Compress Road, West Amador Avenue and North Valley Drive.
“The things we heard you say were you want to honor the character of your gritty agricultural and industrial area,” Henderson said. “If we build on that brand, it’s an awesome brand that has a lot power in the growing millennial group.”
She said millenials prefer a somewhat raw, eclectic environment to a place where everything is too planned, too perfect.
Henderson recommended incremental changes. Many, such as repurposing the cotton trailers, could be accomplished with a minimal investment.
She also recommended approaching neighborhood redevelopment incrementally.
“There’s a large amount of land available for infill,” Henderson said. “If it’s done in phases, one development can feed the next.”
She said someone has to figure out how to get it done.
“We met a lot of creative, determined generous people this week,” she said. “Pick something and make it yours.”
Repurposing neglected assets
Existing assets available for repurposing include the Branigan Ball Field, old industrial buildings and the EBID lateral.
“Since the city wants to move the ball field, if we sculpted the contours of the land, we could create an outdoor theater that could also hold a lot of water,” Henderson said, suggesting the property take on several new functions.
Housing could be built facing the green space.
Duplexes and quads could make the housing affordable, but create a Mesilla-like look, Henderson said. From the street, the structures would look like single-family residences.
PlaceMakers’ vision calls for upgrading the existing playground at the ball field and one in a larger park to the south at the end of a greenway created on the EBID ditch property. The EBID lateral would contain a cycling/walking trail with exercise stations.
While the EBID property would form the core of the neighborhood’s green space, PlaceMakers’ drawings also show numerous neighborhood squares and mini-parks.
Many charette participants suggested a community garden.
Henderson said an empty site in front of the Seed Barn would be “an ideal site.”
She said the consultants came up with two options for locating bocce courts, which residents requested.
Working in the community
The neighborhood can revive its heritage as a major employment site, Henderson said. Suitable properties can be found on Hayner, Hadley and Compress.
“With Franco Foods, there are actually three companies considering this area for expansion,” Henderson said. “There are a lot of properties available for almost immediate occupancy.”
A former meat storage locker with a big open space could easily be turned into a Mercado, she said.
To the east on Hayner, renovating Warehouse 600 creating a food truck plaza are possibilities.
Living and enjoying life
“Housing is really the heart of the neighborhood,” Henderson said.
She said the focal point for housing could be the residential streets in the vicinity of McArthur Elementary School.
“Tierra Del Sol is interested in providing infill housing on individual vacant lots,” she said.
The neighborhood also could be enhanced with a variety of new housing, from cottages to apartments to flats over garages and homes configured around courtyards.
Hadley Avenue already is evolving into a dining and entertainment district, Henderson said, noting the presence of High Desert Brewing Co., complete with restaurant and gallery, and Project in Motion, which is headquartered in a reclaimed cotton gin.
She said Hadley Avenue could be made more pedestrian friendly without relocating curbs. Enhancements might include the addition of a bike lane.
The consulting team also is proposing a Maker Space for the neighborhood. A Maker Space would be available for people who “do cool things,” such as potters, but lack the resources to have a place of their own.
Henderson explained the concept is similar to that of a health club, in which people buy memberships.
She said the former onion shed on Compress Road, already good to go, would be ideal for a Maker Space.
Honoring all neighbors
Henderson stressed that no one be displaced by the redevelopment of the West Amador Avenue neighborhood.
Both charette participants and the consultants focused on ways to assist the Gospel Rescue Mission and Community of Hope on Amador Avenue. Suggestions included building small permanent dwellings, with no kitchens and bath, to upgrade facilities for Camp Hope.
Another community suggestion was to create a venue where the homeless could receive training in a variety of trades and then find employment in restaurants, new industry and retail within the neighborhood.
A possible location for the training center would be the Seed Barn on Amador Avenue, Henderson said.
Alta LeCompte may be reached at 680-1840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.