So I am off to go give my 2 cents at this meeting. I tried looking for “news” on the Kell Muñoz Laredo website (which is incredibly slow even with my speedy internet connection) but… the last news item was in January 😦 I did find a pretty empty calendar on the website with the date, time & place for the public meeting to discuss downtown happening this evening.
Someone on the facebook invitation asked “what is on the agenda” and I really, really wish someone would have answered or provided more information for the structure. I think there are a lot of things people have to say and I am wondering how a verbal discussion is going to cover it all. I guess I will find out when I go.
My first and foremost suggestion is changing the perception people have of Laredo’s downtown. Let’s first start with our leaders who have big impacts in what happens downtown. The Magnet Tribune which is the paper of the VMT School of Communications & Fine Arts published a story titled “Director speaks about VMT moving.”
WHAT?!? I know there have been rumors back and forth about the school moving out of the downtown area BUT… the current VMT director, Dr. Martha Villarreal states reasons that are an unfair to Laredo.
“This is not a safe place, and the buildings are very old. The roofs are leaking, rooms are too small, and the place is falling apart,” Villarreal stated.
She said the district can’t continue to maintain the buildings since it is very
expensive to do so.
She also said VMT is too close to the international bridges, which are considered to be a very unsafe environment by the district.
The district is concerned with the fact that VMT is so open and vulnerable to anyone coming in, she said.
She discussed the possibility of VMT moving to Nixon campus.
“A lot of it is rumors because the board hasn’t made a decision. Nixon is still a recommendation,” she said.
While, yes, the buildings are old and need repairs, isn’t it more expensive to build and maintain somewhere else? Even so – this is a school focused on the ARTS and where better than to be at a site that has the space for festivals and sits in architecturally significant buildings.
What gets me is the comment about the proximity to the international bridges – what makes them so unsafe?? The location of the VMT is not anywhere near the bridges, not even the route to get to the bridges so why is this an issue unless… you perceive to be downtown as dangerous?? Readers know by now that I live downtown and some of my more artsy readers live downtown – some of us even closer to the bridge than the VMT school. So… do we assume that we are the ones that are dangerous to students? Just kidding – or at least I hope we are not the perceived danger.
In my years of travel in Laredo, I have never worried about running over a student near the streets of the VMT school but if we look at Nixon – hijole – I even wrote about it some time back.
I imagine this might be a topic that comes up with the architects tonight because I am definitely bringing up the residential aspect of downtown. Why are the residents of downtown, the homeowners, the ones who have put money into their home because they LIVE, yet I have a voice in the “revitalization” of downtown business. I bet that downtowners would be willing to organize beautification projects, even coordinate flowers or whatever. Some of the homes with a richer history could be registered as historic landmarks with plaques through the state and so much more can be done by (not for) residents if there were a larger plan in place.
Aside from all that can be done physically, I still think that our first step is to not take the attitude of Dr. Martha Villarreal and learn to love Laredo’s downtown.
For now, I am off to the public hearing to hopefully have a good experience and listen to like minded individuals that want to see Laredo be better!
UPDATE: I went to the meeting which lasted to about 8:30pm. The plans were up and I have to say that Kell Muñoz (the architects responsible for working with local folks) have big expensive dreams that are not impossible, just difficult and long-term. I was very disappointed and the start of the session where the local Task Force members appointed to the help the architects were not even present! I think maybe one was but not any of the others that were named. Shouldn’t they also be listening to the community that they are supposed to represent?? If I am wrong and they were just silent when introduced, let me know. Also, strangely, none of those running for office other than former councilman and mayoral candidate Juan Ramirez was there, hmmm?? Maybe they were downtown starting on volunteer clean-up projects. Of course, Cindy Liendo was there since it is her district but… where were the others??
It feels like not much was accomplished but I am sure Kell Muñoz has plenty of poll results and the proposals for the new underpasses and light rail and demarcing downtown with landscaping and taking over occupied buildings for downtown use and moving the sewage plan and cutting the guts that were additions out of some downtown buildings for walking patios and renovating theaters and building 2-3 story buildings lining I-35 and creating arts communities and all the other things they very nicely came up with – like I said, not impossible but that is LOTS of money, time and buy in from the community. I’m in but… how many others??