FARMINGTON — Consultants designing large signs to designate downtown Farmington held their first public meeting late last week at the Farmington Civic Center to brief city officials and residents.

"We are trying to change our image," Metropolitan Redevelopment Area Board Member Derald Polston said at the Thursday meeting. "We're trying to support foot traffic downtown."

He said Farmington's identity is uncertain. The MRA, with the public's input, is trying to hone that identity with the downtown gateway project, he said.

The project aims to select a set of themed signs — cultural, historic and iconic — to mark the boundaries of the Artwalk, he said. The cultural theme would draw on the city's legacy in oil and gas, steel, and desert geography. The historic theme would tie in the region's Southwestern architecture and layers of Puebloan, Spanish and Indian history. The iconic theme will highlight the city's art culture.

The project is estimated to cost $135,000, Community Development Director Mary Holton said. A federal Community Development Block Grant provided $60,000 in 2010, she said. And in fiscal year 2013, the MRA added $75,000 to the project's budget, she said.

Farmington contracted DHM Design, a Durango, Colo., landscape and architecture firm, to do preliminary design work on the signs. Craig Stoffel, DHM senior landscape architect, said the signs' concept isn't yet clear.

The firm will likely make another presentation to the MRA at the end of February, he said. Construction documents are due by the end of April, he said.

Gloria Lehmer, who grew up between Aztec and Farmington, said the project will revitalize downtown.

Of course, she said, it could be argued that $135,000 should be spent on other projects. But the city's facade is important, said Lehmer who attended Thursday's meeting. Many towns that rivers run through have elevated economies, she said. Farmington could boost its economy by featuring its local assets, she said.

"For example, we have a great climate," she said, and people say Farmington has beautiful historic buildings.

"But we've just never had that great revitalization in downtown," she said. And without it, she said, much of the public may be unaware of Farmington's assets.

"It's been a long time coming," she said.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.