By Jacob Sanchez
QCS Staff Writer
Take a walk around downtown Tucumcari. You’ll notice a business here and there, but what you’ll mostly see are empty run-down buildings.
If City Manager Jared Langenegger has his way, downtown will become the heart of economic activity for the city.
The city has taken the first step toward this goal with the City Commission approving the designation of downtown as a metropolitan redevelopment area (MRA). This allows the city to move to the next step: apply for a $50,000 planning grant.
“Basically what a metropolitan redevelopment area is a designation of an area in order to increase growth and, exactly what it says, redevelop it,” Langenegger said. “(Downtown is) classified as a blighted area, which that doesn’t sound good. No one wants a blighted area in their community, but that’s … what it is.”
A blighted area is an area of a city that has low economic activity, high unemployment, poor housing and vacant buildings that are in disrepair. Downtown Tucumcari meets all of the requirements to be called a blighted area, according to the Downtown MRA Designation Report.
The planning grant will let the city develop a plan of action on how to improve downtown.
“That’s what the first step was: To admit we have a problem and now let’s get this grant, we’ll work with New Mexico MainStreet, put together a plan and figure out how to fix it,” Langenegger said.
One example that the city manager points to is the Sands Dorsey building, which should be demolished by September. The Sands Dorsey building has plagued the city for years since two fires in 2007 and 2012, said Mayor Robert Lumpkin.
“Having the removal of the building is the city taking a huge step towards removing an eyesore,” he said.
On Thursday’s regular meeting agenda, the City Commission will consider approval of a mutual release and hold harmless agreement with Sands Dorsey owner Robert Hengstenberg. This release removes the owner from liability. Also, it clears up what would have been a lengthy process over the ownership of the building.
By demolishing the Sands Dorsey building, the city is hoping to open that property up to other uses.
“We’ve talked about doing some public parks (and) green areas,” Langenegger said. “Something to help beautify (downtown) and attract people and bring more businesses in.”
The Princess Theater is another city-owned building. Langenegger said that the city must determine if it’s worth repairing and renovating or completely removing.
Langenegger cannot say what the next project will be until the planning grant is approved. Once the grant is approved, the city will begin the planning process.
“What I may think is a great idea, not everyone may,” Langenegger said. “Through the planning process we will have public meetings, get public input and once we make a decision we will move forward with that.”
New Mexico Mainstreet will help with the plans. The state-run program has helped revitalize downtown areas of cities across the state.
Another grant the city plans to apply for is the Great Blocks Grant through New Mexico MainStreet. This grant will enable the city to repair some buildings’ brick and mortar, replace broken windows and fix crumbling walls.
There will not be a tax increase to pay for the potential redevelopment of downtown, the city manager said.
“As property values increase, the amount of taxes collected by the city still goes to the city. As property values go up, whatever is on top of that goes towards redevelopment of the area,” Langenegger said.
The ultimate goal for downtown revitalization is to have a place where locals and tourists can spend their money and time enjoying the city. On top of that, Langenegger hopes that it stimulates the local economy and attracts more people to Tucumcari.
“You know you come into a town and see a bunch of vacant buildings with broken windows and weeds piled up, trash out there and things like that, you’re not really likely to think, ‘Oh I want to move here,’” Langenegger said. “But if you go and things are nice and tidy; there’s businesses and shops; there’s people and activity going on then that makes it more welcoming to people.”
Langenegger said that this is the goal of any city administration.
“We have to make every effort we can and look at every opportunity we have to move things forward and grow the community,” he said. “The job of city administration is to do things that benefit the community, move the community forward, grow new businesses, bring new people into town (and) provide better services.”