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AZTEC — Downtown could see some changes as the city tries to revitalize the area, which the City Commission designated as a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area during a meeting on Tuesday.

The MRA designation comes out of 1978 measure designed to help New Mexico cities revitalize their downtown, Charlie Deans, the urban design and planning program associate for the New Mexico Main Street Association, explained during a workshop prior to the meeting.

In order to receive the designation, the city's downtown had to be classified as blighted. The two criteria considered for that were the state of the buildings and the economic factors in the downtown. Some of the buildings here are vacant and boarded up, and some of the streets need better sidewalks. The fact that the people living in downtown Aztec have low annual incomes and that unemployment is higher in the area influenced the economic criteria.

However, for the most part, residential areas were not included in the Metropolitan Redevelopment area.

The Metropolitan Redevelopment Area is like a set of tools, Deans said.

"The biggest tool in this statute is the ability to do public-private partnership," he said.

One example of this would be the city of Albuquerque's redevelopment of a former high school. The city purchased the high school and partnered with a private contractor to transform it into apartments, condominiums, and retail and office space.

Being designated as a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area also enables the commission to apply for a $50,000 grant to pay for drafting a plan for revitalizing the district. The commission approved applying for the grant during Tuesday's meeting.

Aztec is not the first city in the county to have an area designated as a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area.

The city of Farmington's Main Street was designated as a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area in 2009. Farmington's plan enabled it to receive $150,000 of Community Development Block Grant program funding to improve the facades on 14 buildings.

While the plan will help the city work to revitalize an area, it also relies on incentives for property owners, such as property tax credits or deferrals, to promote development.

Mayor Sally Burbridge described it as a carrot approach.

"If we wanted to take the stick approach, then we would bolster our ordinances," she said.

Commissioner Katee McClure said property owners in the district may see others improving their buildings and decide they want to participate, as well.

She said that reaction is not uncommon in neighborhoods when "somebody paints their trim and all of a sudden five or six people are doing the same thing."

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.

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