El Paseo redevelopment will expand to include South Solano

Michael McDevitt
Las Cruces Sun-News
The city will continue to study ways to revitalize the corridor of businesses along El Paseo Road, but after a city council meeting Monday, a portion of South Solano Drive will be included in the planning.

LAS CRUCES - The city will continue to study ways to revitalize the corridor of businesses along El Paseo Road, but after a city council meeting Monday, a portion of South Solano Drive will be included in the planning.

The Las Cruces City Council approved the creation of an ad hoc committee Monday that will deliberate ways to redevelop the areas. That includes the business corridor that runs along El Paseo between downtown and University Avenue and the corridor along South Solano Drive between Missouri Avenue and East Lohman Avenue.

The committee will include Councilors Kasandra Gandara, Tessa Abeyta Stuve and Gabriel Vasquez from districts 1, 2 and 3. It will also include community members, leaders from NMSU, nonprofit and business leaders, Las Cruces Public Schools staff and leaders in local transit.

Here's a list of some named committee members. Others haven't yet been chosen.

  • Jake Redfearn, principal at NAI 1st Valley Commercial Realty 
  • Sharon Thomas, mayor pro tem emeritus who worked on the original El Paseo blueprint
  • David Armijo, South Central Regional Transit District executive director

City staff may be allowed by the city manager to participate in committee meetings but they won’t be allowed to vote, due to the city code barring city staff from being appointed to a board.

The rejuvenation of the El Paseo Corridor has been an idea for nearly a decade. A blueprint was adopted in 2012 after public input, which painted the new El Paseo Corridor as a place that could have bike lanes, affordable housing for low-income families or New Mexico State University students, shopping, museums, nightlife and brewpubs.

The mayor and council have criticized the abundance of big box stores, fast food joints, vast parking lots and some abandoned properties on El Paseo.

The council originally discussed the revitalization during a work session in February after Mayor Ken Miyagishima highlighted it as a priority in his State of the City address.

One of the highlights of that vision would be to provide free shuttle service along the corridor that would run from downtown to the Las Cruces Convention Center.

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On Monday, the scope was widened through an amendment to include South Solano after Vasquez vouched for its inclusion. South Solano is another small business corridor that sits within Vasquez’s district. He had spoken about its inclusion in February as well.

"There are some properties that have been invested in," Vasquez said. "But the majority of them haven't. There's places that are burnt down. There's places that are overgrown with weeds. There's vacant businesses and there's small businesses that are struggling to survive. And there's places that are high crime areas that are adjacent."

The original redevelopment area included in the blueprint didn't extend to South Solano.

Miyagishima, whose Farmers Insurance agency office sits on Solano, worried about a potential conflict of interest from him working on a project that included business development along that street.

The mayor abstained from voting on the resolution and said he'll recuse himself from the project.

Before that, the mayor had suggested having a “phase two” of development which would occur after the El Paseo development gets underway. Vasquez disagreed, saying he thought work should begin on revitalizing South Solano at the same time as El Paseo.

“Unless we lift up South Solano, we’re not going to lift up our neighboring residents,” Vasquez said.

The ad hoc committee will study ways to implement the revitalization vision, largely based off the blueprint, and present a report to the Transportation, Sustainability, and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee. The issue would then go to the council for approval.

The city’s economic development department has floated a few ways to fund the revitalization of the area, which would include designating it as one or more special districts. That could include a tax increment development district, public improvement district, business improvement district or a metropolitan redevelopment area.

Michael McDevitt can be reached at 575-202-3205, mmcdevitt@lcsun-news.com or @MikeMcDTweets on Twitter.