Metro designation could aid downtown growth

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

If the Clovis City Commission votes later this year to establish a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area downtown, 14 blocks of Main Street and the surrounding area could be transformed.

Private contractors representing the state economic development department presented a plan to area residents last week that would hand control to city officials in matters of future development, allowing them to control the downtown development process by offering tax breaks and other perks to developers.

The potential MRA would extend from Mabry Drive as far north as 14th Street, and be from three to five blocks wide. Main Street would fall within the proposed MRA through the entire 14-block stretch.

The Metropolitan Redevelopment Code was passed by legislative action in 1978 to authorize municipalities to acquire, own, lease, improve and dispose of properties to attract economic activity in the area, presentation materials handed out at the meeting Thursday showed.

“As the state economic development department is recruiting businesses to locate in the smaller communities, they were getting feedback (from these corporations) that the downtown areas of these communities need some work,” said Phyllis Taylor, part owner of Sites Southwest, the independent environmental design firm that presented the MRA plan to area residents last week.

She said the MRA would free the city to control the development process and incentivize developers with tax breaks and delayed payments.

“A city like Clovis or Hobbs or Las Cruces that owns property can use the resources that they have to try to get private development to happen,” Taylor said. “The state already allowed local governments to have bond financing and incentives for new industry, and this is just the same idea applied to a downtown, or some deteriorated area.”

Assistant City Clerk Claire Burroughes said the economic development department allocated three $25,000 grants for three developing communities needing funding to establish an MRA. Clovis was one of the cities selected.

Julie Charters, program manger for Clovis Downtown Revitalization Program, said the value of that grant went toward Sites Southwest services, who has contracted with the economic development department to establish MRAs in developing towns.

“It will be the key to redevelopment. The thing that finally spurs redevelopment in our downtown area,” Charters said.
Charters said the first phase of the project should be done by late this year, at which point the city commission can vote to adopt the MRA and move forward with redevelopment initiatives.

Taylor showed how an MRA project had been successful in Albuquerque.

“If you are looking at a risky venture, you aren’t going to get a private person to do anything but what they already know how to do (without incentives),” Taylor said.