AZTEC — Last year, 27 MainStreet community districts throughout New Mexico -- including Farmington and Albuquerque's Nob Hill -- created 134 new businesses and 622 new jobs. And those jobs generated nearly $17 million in private sector reinvestment, according to the New Mexico MainStreet program's website.

By 2014, Aztec would like to be added to that list.

An ad-hoc community group hoping to revitalize the city's downtown corridor wants to form a MainStreet Association. The move would help the group, ACES, or Aztec Community Event Sessions, formalize its efforts, organizers said.

The New Mexico MainStreet program, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, supports historic downtown areas with resources, education, training and networking, and technical services to benefit the local economy and preserve cultural and historic resources. Although membership is free, the application process is extensive.

ACES member Wilann Thomas likes the idea.

"With the north end (trail and bridge projects) coming in, we need to facilitate our historic downtown," Thomas said. "We have many buildings on the (national and state) historic register, and they need our help."

Thomas views the string of historic buildings along Main Avenue -- many built around 1912 when New Mexico achieved statehood -- as cultural and historical assets not unlike the region's natural arches or nearby Aztec Ruins National Monument.

"Not a lot of communities have such rich cultural history," Thomas said. "It behooves us to take advantage of what's out there, in terms of grants or low-interest funds to help these buildings, our businesses and our community while ensuring we preserve and strengthen our old buildings."

At a special ACES meeting next month, Aztec's Community Development Director Roshana Moojen will walk through the state process and timeline for applying for the New Mexico MainStreet program.

Pat Fine, at right, paints the front of attorney Ryan Fine’s new office building on Thursday in the 100 block of South Main Avenue in Aztec.
Pat Fine, at right, paints the front of attorney Ryan Fine's new office building on Thursday in the 100 block of South Main Avenue in Aztec. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

"MainStreet can produce a lot of projects to revitalize the district," Moojen said. "The MainStreet program, both at the national and state level, is a multi-step program. The first step is you formalize a group and come up with an objective and a project. If the state feels the community has met those goals, the city achieves emerging community status. If those objectives are met, you are given MainStreet status and that opens up further technical support and funding opportunities from there."

A key component of a MainStreet group is that it has a number of stakeholders, who can be elected officials; business owners; arts, religious or civic groups; schools; historical societies or chamber of commerce members.

Projects that could be achieved through the program include a formalized art walk as part of a push to develop an arts or cultural district, which can only happen with a downtown organization like MainStreet, Moojen said.

Recent discussions at Aztec Chamber of Commerce meetings over the formation of a MainStreet group raised concerns over such an organization overlapping with the roles of the chamber. To Moojen and Thomas, no such conflict exists between a members-only chamber group and a district-based MainStreet association.

"There's been a bit of a misconception that it's either one or the other. That is not accurate because, long-term, a community needs both," Moojen said. "A MainStreet association can do things for a community that a chamber cannot and vice versa. Right now, it's every business for itself, but they're all doing their best to survive in this economy. A MainStreet association just kind of gives people a step up to say, 'Let's market all together.'"

IF YOU GO
What: ACES meeting
When: 5 p.m. Jan. 6
Where: Aztec Visitor Center, 110 N. Ash Ave.
More info: Contact ACES at505-543-4629.

For more information on the New Mexico MainStreet program, go to nmmainstreet.org or gonm.biz.

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.