City planner says trio of projects could transform city

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AZTEC — Aztec city planner Steven Saavedra describes the Aztec Metropolitan Redevelopment Area plan as one of three independent but connected projects that could transform the city.

Saavedra spoke to residents during a meeting Tuesday designed to serve as an opportunity for residents to learn about the draft MRA plan. The plan was compiled by Albuquerque-based Consensus Planning. 

Consensus Planning principal Jackie Fishman presented the draft plan during the meeting. The draft plan identifies more than 40 different funding sources that could assist the city.

“This isn’t law,” Saavedra said. “This is a recommending document.”

The city is also in the process of building the East Aztec Arterial Route, which will divert heavy truck traffic from downtown. That will allow the city to promote pedestrian and bike traffic downtown.

The draft MRA plan calls for increased signage to encourage people to visit downtown Aztec and to help people navigate the city.

The North Main Avenue extension project, which is already underway, will connect downtown with Aztec Ruins National Monument.

The City Commission likely will approve the plan during an upcoming meeting, although some changes are expected to be made to the plan before it is finally updated. Mayor Victor Snover and Mayor Pro-Tem Rosalyn Fry attended the meeting Tuesday.

Snover encouraged people to read the draft plan, which is available on the city’s website aztecnm.gov. He asked community members to provide comments. Snover thanked people for attending the meeting and being willing to “get involved and to take some ownership of this.”

“We need this or nothing’s going to happen,” he said.

The plan is intended to revitalize the downtown district and surrounding neighborhoods. Between 19 and 24 percent of the buildings in the area are vacant.

Fishman said she has seen other communities begin work on different pieces of MRA plans within a year of adopting the plan.

Once the plan is adopted, the city will be able to invest in the district using public-private partnerships that would otherwise violate the state’s anti-donation clause. That could mean partnering with the owners of the historic Aztec Theater to fix the neon sign and replace the marquee.

It also includes some projects that the city can complete on its own without the help of private building owners and investors. Those include reducing the number of lanes on Main Avenue and remodeling the public plaza. The plan also calls for improving connectivity between the plaza and the Aztec HUB.

One possibility mentioned in the plan is adding a landscaped median. There is already a short portion of Main Avenue near the intersection with Aztec Boulevard that includes a landscaped median.

“I think having the presence of trees in the median naturally slows people down,” Fishman said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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