A grant of $100,000 has been awarded to MainStreet Roswell to create plans to develop the Railroad District.
A press release from MainStreet Roswell stated this project is called “Great Blocks on MainStreet Roswell Market Walk Project” and the funds are coming from the New Mexico MainStreet Capital Outlay Program.
As stated in another press release, from the state’s Economic Development Department, MainStreet Capital Outlay Program funds assist “public infrastructure upgrades within a targeted public investment area.” The other requirement is the projects have to impact the local economy by engaging “local property and business owners.” Roswell and 11 other MainStreet communities statewide are receiving a portion of the total $4 million for revitalization projects.
Kathy Lay, executive director for MainStreet Roswell, said Roswell Market Walk will be a lighted and landscaped public walkway from East Walnut to East Third streets connecting the Railroad District and downtown. It also includes a community market and event space, as well as public parking, to be used for a farmers’ market, community festivals and more.
A Railroad District Metropolitan Redevelopment Area (MRA) Plan was adopted by the Roswell City Council.
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This plan identifies the Railroad District with the boundaries of North Virginia and Railroad avenues, between Second and Eighth streets. The market walk would extend this district south from Second Street to Walnut.
Lay said, “We want to create something that’s unique and individual in our district that will be memorable for our community — places that they can share with their families, with their kids, with their friends and making lasting community memories and identity. And it becomes part of who we are as a community, so we want to create something there that will do that and support that.”
A public parking space is planned to be on East Walnut Street and a market/event space would be between an existing power station and the closed Roswell Baseball Institute on East Second Street.
No leases or official agreements for the properties around the walkway, but Lay said letters of support have been received from all of them.
“This project can be catalytic in transforming the railroad district into a vibrant area, creating a more walkable community, and will support the businesses and properties owned by current anchor tenants, as well as attract new investors to the area,” Lay wrote in a statement.
“The primary goal of this project is to accomplish a significant capital improvement in the blighted Railroad District utilizing public/private partnerships, moving from plan to completed construction that can leverage millions in private sector investments in the downtown district …”
To receive this grant, Lay clarified the first step was creating plans and generating private and public interest. She said creating a “shovel-ready project” was done through several plans, such as MainStreet Roswell’s masterplan and the MRA, that came from community discussion, professional oversight and Roswell City Council approval.
Lay listed as parties involved with the grant the MainStreet Roswell board and volunteers Tawnie Honey from the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation, Roswell city councilors Judy Stubbs and Jacob Roebuck, Juanita Jennings, city of Roswell director of public affairs, and several other city staffers.
After awarding of the grant, she said the second step is using the $100,000 to pay for “construction documents,” or site plans. The next step is for the city to develop a request for proposals, which is contingent on city council approval, for design teams to submit plans for the site.
The city of Roswell is acting as the fiscal agent and Lay explained they will be matching 20% of the grant. In addition, she said the market walk “would be considered property belonging to, and maintained by, the City of Roswell” — and therefore, maintenance and permits for other events would be the city’s responsibility.
After this process is complete, Lay said more grants and other funding sources will be pursued to bring the plan to fruition.
Amy Bell, a revitalization specialist for New Mexico MainStreet, said, “… This project is exciting because it will not only improve the look and feel of the Railroad District, it will build partnerships with local businesses and entrepreneurs, creating a lasting impact far beyond the physical boundaries of the project area.”
Lay was notified last week that the city was awarded the grant, but the information was embargoed until the official New Mexico MainStreet press release was released on Monday. Six weeks is about how long Lay worked on the grant, aside from researching and preparing earlier in the summer, and it was submitted on Oct. 29.
Roebuck wrote in a statement that there are “excited” and “motivated” property owners in the existing Railroad District and that these public-private partnerships create “real change in Roswell.” The market walk is in Ward 1 and Roebuck, who represents that area, said he is committed to getting the plans done and the market walk “funded and executed.”
“A city goal for 2020 is to see engagement,” Jennings said. “This grant demonstrates that collaboration between public and private partnerships can happen for our community. It allows the engagement to enhance our community.
“The funding will drive momentum specific to the downtown district, which is vital to tourism and economic growth. It will serve for a better experience and continues our mission to revamping our infrastructure and revitalizing the city. This funding provides an opportunity to make true and notable improvements in downtown Roswell.”
Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.