Monday, November 30, 2009

San Juan enters second phase of downtown revitalization plan

San Juan enters second phase of downtown revitalization plan

City leaders hope more Basilica voters will “pray and stay”
November 28, 2009 7:09 PM
The Monitor
Nick Pipitone

SAN JUAN — The San Juan Economic Development Corp. kicked off phase two of a downtown revitalization plan Nov. 19 and will focus on public outreach over the next four months in crafting a “cohesive vision” for downtown San Juan.

City leaders said that by creating a pedestrian corridor to the downtown area near Nebraska Street and Business 83, they will be able to attract and retain more of the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Mexican nationals and visitors who come to see the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle every week.

“Many visitors come via a charter bus so they don’t have a method or means for transportation,” corporation Executive Director Miki McCarthy said. “Our plan is geared toward giving them all the amenities they need for a full visit. They come and pray. We’d like them to pray and stay.”

The city spent $50,000 on a feasibility and infrastructure study in August and identified the infrastructure improvements needed downtown to accommodate future commercial growth.

McCarthy said new water and sewer lines, improved drainage and sidewalk improvements need to be addressed first.

“Once we accomplish those, then we’re talking about aesthetic improvements that would follow,” she said.

McCarthy said the city is envisioning lighting, water features, shaded areas and landscaping that would beatify the downtown area.

The city has invested $120,000 into this second phase of the project — the designing, planning and public outreach stages that will culminate into the creation of the city’s downtown revitalization plan.

The plan will lay out guidelines and regulations for downtown redevelopment, including new construction, building rehabilitation and sidewalk and street improvements.

During the four-month phase, the development corporation will host several forums for business owners and the community to attend in order to provide input for the plan.

At the forums, the city will showcase the different design options provided by civil and engineering firm Edminister, Hinshaw, Russ and Associates Inc., which the city hired as its primary consultant on the project.

“Are we going to preserve our historic structures? Will downtown have more of a Main Street-feel or will it be newer construction? These are all questions we’re considering,” McCarthy said.

She said there will one town hall meeting a month from January through April, and the city will begin advertising them with a billboard downtown and in store front windows in December.

City officials said San Juan residents will also benefit by having more entertainment options downtown—instead of having to leave the city.

“We’d hate to see (downtown) become an old ghost town. There are a lot of buildings that need to be remodeled,” Mayor Pedro Contreras said, using the abandoned San Juan Hotel as an example. “We’re hoping for a huge, positive change in our downtown, bringing in commercial businesses and creating a family environment.”

Along with the engineering firm, CDS Spillette is also consulting the city in the...

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