LOVINGTON — If you thought things were busy for Lovington MainStreet before, it wants you to know it is just getting warmed up.
LMS board members took two opportunities within a week to speak publicly about ongoing projects. Treasurer Rose Munoz and board member Patrick Alexander made a presentation and request to the Lovington City Commission at the special work session meeting last week, and LMS Executive Director Mara Salcido gave a presentation Monday night at the Lea County Museum about projects that are underway.
“Our goal is to create an entertainment and dining cluster, and to beautify and physically improve the downtown infrastructure,” Munoz said summing up what LMS is all about. She went on to describe the types of businesses typically found in downtown areas, as in destination businesses and impulse businesses, and how the affect each other.
Destination businesses — like restaurants, entertainment venues, distilleries and bars, and movie theaters — that are open later hours are needed in the downtown Lovington area in order to restore downtown, she said, then impulse businesses — like bookstores, gift shops, ice cream shops, and jewelry stores — can be added for support of the area as a whole. She also noted the downtown area also has a good number of specialty businesses, which make the area stronger.
“We want people to come to Lovington with the intent on spending their time and money,” Munoz said.
Munoz told commissioners even though Lovington already has good start with the businesses in the downtown area, what is missing is business open after 5 p.m.
“The problem is we need more of the (businesses) that stay open after 5 p.m. Because, if you’ve ever been in downtown after 5, you know it’s a ghost town,” said Munoz. “To increase GRT (gross receipts tax and keep dollars here (in Loving ton), we need destination businesses that are open after hours.”
Munoz and Alexander told commissioners LMS was awarded $8,000 from USDA for a market analysis, and that report indicated Loving-ton can support the current brewery (Drylands) along with one more craft brewery, or one or more craft distilleries, or a combination craft brewery/distillery. They also told commissioners Loving-ton is in a race with Hobbs, because if Hobbs develops additional craft breweries or distilleries, then Lovington can only support Drylands, according to the impact study.
“What we’ve done is developed an initiative to recruit a micro-distillery to Loving-ton first,” Alexander told commissioners. “We will develop and market the initiative (which LMS is calling the After Hours on Main initiative) in all of New Mexico, west Texas, south Colorado, and eastern Arizona.”
For that initiative, and to attract a micro-distillery to Lovington, LMS has received a USDA grant for $65,000, and has identified a building they would like the city’s help in obtaining, condemning and demolishing. Part of LMS grant would be used for the demolishing and abatement of the building, with the rest to be used in equipment purchases and attracting a micro-distillery to Lovington. In addition, New Mexico MainStreet has committed to providing architectural renderings of the location, and LMS will use raised funds for a $10,000 match, Alexander said.
The identified building (listed on Google Maps as 11 W. Central Ave.) sits at the corner of Central Ave. and the alley now dubbed, “Central Alley.” The building falls well within the designated downtown area of Avenue D to Madison, and Love to 2nd Street, Salcido told members of the public at the open meeting on Monday night.
LMS would like help from the city in clearing the three liens, totaling about $150,000, they have identified on the property — one from the IRS, one from the State of New Mexico, and one from worker’s comp, Alexander and Munoz said. The city would only have to pay for legal fees and the foreclosure, and would then own the property, but LMS would then pay for demolition, abating, funding for finding an entrepreneur to put in a micro-distillery.
At the city commission meeting commissioners took the presentation under advisement, but because it was presented at the public comments portion, it could not be acted on at the meeting. Lovington Mayor David Trujillo said the commission would take up the matter at a later date after it was put on the agenda.
At the meeting Monday, Salcido covered much of the same information as given to commissioners, but also went on to talk about the other projects LMS is working on, including the U.S. 82 reconstruction project by the New Mexico Department of Transportation.
Salcido detailed the project through the heart of Lovington will take place in 18 phases, on only one side of the street at a time, for approximately 600 feet at a time, or about one block.
Not only will the road project be repairing and replacing sections of Main Street, but will also be replacing sidewalks, some water lines, creating new parking areas, a bicycle lane, and adding benches and landscaping.
In line with that project, Salcido said LMS will be continuing the Central Alley project for two additional blocks. Salcido told audience members LMS spent about $25,000 on the section of Central Alley recently painted with murals and had lighting and electrical work performed by Lea County Electric. The next two blocks — the continual blocks immediately north and south — will also have about the same amount spent on them.
Another project that will help identify the downtown area of Lovington are entry signs on the north and south end of Main Street, with the south welcome entry sign will be in front of the former Chamber of Commerce building, now the Troy Harris Center, and the north welcome sign being in the parking lot of the Methodist Church, said Salcido.
“It’s kind of a little area they aren’t using anyway,” she told those in attendance.
LMS will also install way-finding directional signage with three individual directional signs pointing the way to permanent landmarks. The total cost of the signage will come is estimated to be about $175,000.
Salcido wrapped her presentation with other upcoming events in Lovington, including two dates LMS has scheduled pop-up events in currently vacant buildings to highlight potential retail spaces in the downtown area.
Friday marked the first of the “Not Vacant” pop-up events 6-10 p.m. at 215 N. Main St., site of the former Lovington General Hospital. Local mural artist Dante Rios, and his family is working to restore the building and create a multi-use art space for the community. Salcido said LMS is evening bringing a Bob Dylan cover band, Jack of Hearts, from California to perform live for the event.
The next pop-up Not Vacant Shindig happens Oct. 15 at a location to be announced.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun, and people are going to be able to see the kind of energy the downtown are can have after 5 p.m.,” Salcido said. “I think it will really make people think about the possibilities, and might even give someone a business idea. … Lovington MainStreet is ready to help anyone who has an idea to make downtown Lovington better.”