Downtown revitalization

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??

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13 Responses to Downtown revitalization

  1. MaryHelen says:

    I got there late but still early enough to hear and discuss some great ideas for the future of Laredo’s downtown. If we get only half of what was discussed, I’ll be happy. 😀

  2. Keyrose says:

    So what was discussed? Do tell.

  3. Poncho1950 says:

    For centuries the heart of the cities was the strongest and best place, but with the advent of the automobile the dynamics shifted. The edges and outlying areas — suburbs and malls — is where the investment and development went and center city was left wanting in all but a few cities.

    I think the troubles in Mexico are what make people consider the downtown is unsafe for a school, but I don’t think a cross-border raid like Pancho Villa’s famous attack on Columbus, New Mexico, is very likely. Insofar as new vs old, I learned from covering school board meetings that, yes, it is often more expensive to renovate old buildings and install new technology than it is to start from scratch elsewhere.

    I have not ventured into downtown Laredo very often during my visits to my hometown over the last 20 or so years, but people tell me it has changed a great deal.

    You are right, however, that the residential area deserves attention, too. A friend of mine lives in Lancaster, Pa., which has managed to revitalize and keep much of its residential areas — largely row homes — vibrant. Neighborhood beautification, community involvement, and strict enforcement of codes are important to this.

  4. Que Fregados says:

    What bothered me but is not all that important in the larger picture was the incredible amount of misspellings in their powerpoint presentation. The street names were misspelled over and over – Matamoros, Jarvis, Agustin, Santa Cleotilde and Zaragoza. What is up with that??

    • MaryHelen says:

      Actually, it sounds like someone dropped the ball. The Powers That Be (TPTB) may have given the street research job to a minor player and that person thought that Cliff Notes would be good enough. 😉 Too bad!! I was impressed with the ideas. Now to find the backing! 😦

  5. MaryHelen says:

    I’m hoping that the Arts & Entertainment District that’s been recently approved by City Council will start to develop because apparently their plan hinges on it’s success. Hidalgo Street will never be the same! 😉 The long-term plan is for the entire length of the street, from the old train depot in the west to the Zacate creek on the east, be focused on art/entertainment-related businesses as a draw for revitalization and secondary commerce. Art studios, galleries, dance studios, theaters, artisan shops, museums, cafes, restaurants….what else can be promoted?

  6. Jorge Santana says:

    Me dejó sin palabras la Srita. Villareal, tiene cero consideración por el valor histórico que tienen esas propiedades, costará millones y millones y millones construir edificios nuevos, muchísimo más que reparar lo que ahora se tiene que es algo hermoso y único, no solamente se apoyan las artes pero también la historia al utilizar estos espacios que de no ser por el uso que se les da ahora, estarían abandonados o probablemente ya destruidos.

    Su comentario sobre lo peligroso que son los puentes toca la línea del desprecio hacia nuestro vecino país, debe cuidar sus palabras o mostrar evidencias.

    LISD poco a poco deja el centro histórico y me tiene muy preocupado el destino de esas propiedades, en malas manos terminarán perdiendo el valor irreemplazable que tienen, ojalá la comisión histórica de Laredo cuide estas propiedades y no deje caigan en el abandono, como muchas.

    Todavía, en este momento, hay un centro histórico de Laredo, todavía!! pero no por mucho si no se le pone el cuidado y la atención que se debe. Desgraciadamente esto significa dinero y educación, pues las personas que adquieren estas propiedades históricas no tienen ideas de como mantenerlas y repararlas y terminan destruyendo su pasado, hay que re-educar a los propietarios de estos inmuebles y después hablar sobre reparaciones. Una persona que no aprecia el valor histórico de su propiedad o que lo desconoce, no va a hacer nada por mantenerlo como se debe.

    • MaryHelen says:

      I agree, Mr. Santana. I think I need to make a few phone calls to the Webb County Heritage Foundation and find out how we can get this more to the forefront. I know that back in the 80’s, the WCHF had an educational program on historical property maintenance in place. I’ll find out more about it from them when I call.

  7. gsdsff says:

    first post

  8. Pingback: Que Fregados

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