FARMINGTON

Farmington gets state grant for arts and cultural district planning study

John R. Moses
Farmington Daily Times
This 2019 file photo shows part of the Art in the Alley project, which included this mural in the alley behind the city's Complete Streets project headquarters. The project was designed to encourage businesses to make their back entrances more attractive to pedestrians in advance of Complete Streets construction. Many such murals are still there for the public to enjoy, with a new one added as recently as June.

FARMINGTON – The drive to achieve a state-recognized Farmington MainStreet Arts & Cultural District got a boost when the state approved a $40,000 grant.

That money was part of a $10 million statewide package of 14 community grants from the New Mexico Economic Development Department (NMEDD) and New Mexico MainStreet (NMMS) for community revitalization projects.

The award, announced by the state on Oct. 20, is for an Arts & Cultural District/Cultural Economic Development Plan.

"Half of this year’s awards are for Great Blocks projects, which upgrade a core two-three block commercial area in a district through the implementation of urban and landscape design, architecture, and creative economy projects," the release said.

Those construction grants ran as high as $2.1 million, which was awarded for development of outdoor spaces in Roswell's Railroad District.

“Downtown Farmington is excited to have been awarded a Capital Outlay grant from New Mexico MainStreet,” City of Farmington Main Street Coordinator Karen Lupton said in a news release. “This grant will allow us to pursue our goal of becoming a State-Authorized Arts & Cultural District. We look forward to the process of developing a Cultural Economic Development Plan and expanding our already dynamic and economically vibrant Arts & Cultural District.”

Belen MainStreet also received a $40,000 development plan grant for its arts and cultural district.

Downtown revitalization has been a goal for the city, which partners with the state's New Mexico MainStreet Program and the national organization Main Street America.

A mural is seen on the rear wall of the Totah Theatre in downtown Farmington in this undated photo.

City works to revitalize downtown Farmington

The local revitalization effort inspired a mural project that got going in 2019 which brought art to the formerly blank rear walls of businesses in the alleys that run along Main Street. The downtown district’s walkways and road design were a work in progress for months when the city began a lengthy street revitalization project that included new sidewalks, street furniture, roundabouts and lighting – as well as unseen infrastructure improvements like water lines and drainage.

That portion of Main Street is back open now and hosts parades and events once again, including this year's Boo-Palooza, which will feature trick-or-treating from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 31, as well as games, vendors and costume contests.

The city is also planning a ribbon-cutting event with the Farmington Chamber of Commerce's and grand opening movie premiere night Monday at the historic Totah Theatre building in downtown Farmington, which has undergone extensive renovation. The building's offices are intended to serve as a support hub for the local film industry.

“New Mexico MainStreet’s Capital Outlay projects make a positive impact by increasing pedestrian traffic and business expansions by 60 percent and reducing building vacancies by 70 percent,” NMMS Director Daniel Gutierrez said in the release.

Music-lovers were sprinkled throughout the cafe portion of Artifacts 302, a gallery and studio bake shop at 302 E. Main St. to enjoy classical strains as other patrons checked out the art and selections of chile and cooking oil products during the Downtown Stroll and Art Walk on April 1, 2022. The event was designed to encourage people to visit and shop in the downtown district.

“We’re thankful for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Legislature’s continued support for this vital program.”The NMMS Capital Outlay program was designed to pay for the “planning, design, and construction of public infrastructure upgrades in targeted public investment areas,” Gutierrez said in the news release.

All of the projects that were funded are aimed at supporting an area’s economic growth, and spurring property renovation, new jobs and business development in the project’s region, the news release said..

“Capital Outlay investments are an important economic driver because they upgrade utilities, public safety, pedestrian access and more,” New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said. “These visible improvements beautify the streetscape, enhance a community’s character, and build confidence for private sector reinvestment.”

The larger projects funded this year include $1.9 million for Alamogordo MainStreet, for Great Blocks Construction, a project that will affect the 800 and 900 blocks of New York Avenue.

“This award will begin construction on our Great Blocks Project and update two city blocks of our main street, bringing new life to an area that’s essential to our existing businesses and community as a whole,” Alamogordo MainStreet Executive Director Nolan Ojeda said in the news release.

Also funded was a $350,000 grant to the Carlsbad MainStreet Arts & Cultural District for the Cavern Theater Rehabilitation - Digital Projection & Sound project.

“The impact this grant award will have on our Cavern Theatre Rehabilitation project is tremendous," Carlsbad MainStreet Arts & Cultural District Executive Director Kat Davis said. "Carlsbad MainStreet Arts & Cultural District is thrilled to have the support and partnership of New Mexico MainStreet and the Economic Development Department. These funds will see us finish phase 4B of the rehabilitation project and bring our community one step closer to having our historic theatre operating as a multifunctional performing arts facility,”

The Downtown Las Cruces Partnership Arts & Cultural District received a $900,000 grant for its Arts & Cultural District Gateway and Lighting Project Design & Construction project.

“With these funds, the LCACD will complete phase II of the lighting improvements gateway and pilon projects, enhancing the safety and visibility of the district,” DLCP Executive Director Jennifer Garcia Kozlowski said.

The largest grant went to Main Street Roswell, $2,1 million for the Roswell Market Walk Phase 1 project.

“This funding will go far to create a beautiful outdoor space within our Railroad district that will include walking paths, performance stage, play area, shaded adult activity area, bathrooms, shade trees, grass and more," MainStreet Roswell Executive Director Barbara Gomez said. "This area will become a focal point of activity to enhance and promote our MainStreet & Railroad districts.”

For more information on Farmington's Arts and Cultural District go to https://www.nmartsandculturaldistricts.org/our-districts/farmington/. Information on downtown revitalization is available at https://www.fmtn.org/99/Downtown-Farmington.