Community Spotlight: How Three New Mexico Main Street Communities Improved their Downtown Facades

January 6, 2022 | Community Spotlight: How Three New Mexico Main Street Communities Improved their Downtown Facades | By: Jessica Mraz, Communications and Promotions Specialist, New Mexico MainStreet | 

From left to right: Gallup’s Coal Avenue Commons Ribbon Cutting in Gallup, NM; construction underway in Deming, NM; Daniel Gutierrez, Director of New Mexico MainStreet and Charmeine Wait, Executive Director of Silver City MainStreet in Silver City, NM. Photo courtesy of New Mexico MainStreet

In March 2020, Main Street America announced four states (Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Wyoming) were selected for the inaugural
NPS Main Street Façade Improvement Grant Program. New Mexico MainStreet, a Main Street America Coordinating Program, was awarded $140,625 for historic building façade improvements in three downtown districts: Deming Luna County MainStreet, Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District, and Silver City MainStreet. Each district played a pivotal role in connecting partners for these projects and overcoming unexpected challenges, especially during a global pandemic. Here are their stories and top recommendations to other Main Street affiliates wanting to take on this kind of work.
122 Pine Street, Deming, NM. Photos courtesy of New Mexico MainStreet

Deming Luna County MainStreet worked with a local building owner to restore the windows, repair the stairs and apply a new color scheme to the historic Deming Bank/Marie’s Italian Grill building (122 Pine St.) in their district. The project leveraged additional private reinvestment in surrounding historic buildings and brought a fresh look to one of Deming’s biggest historic buildings in the heart of downtown.

“We’re honored to have played a part in the amazing renovation of one of Deming’s historic downtown buildings,” said Deming Luna County MainStreet Executive Director Chelsea Evans. “As soon as the project started, it was instantly rewarding because community members and other building/business owners complimented and inquired about the renovation work."
306 W Coal Avenue, Gallup, NM. Photos courtesy of New Mexico MainStreet

Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District
is supporting two building owners who will improve the façades of the Gallup Coffee Company (201 W Coal Ave) and the historic Grand Hotel (306 W Coal Ave). Gallup Coffee Company shares a building with the historic El Morro Theater; improvements will include window restoration, storefront rehabilitation, new lighting & signage, and a new color scheme. The building was constructed in 1928 and features painted kachinas between the second-floor windows, reflecting the significant Native American history in Gallup.

Local investors recently formed a nonprofit organization, Friends of the Grand, to fundraise and revitalize the historic Grand Hotel. The nonprofit’s goals include creating a performance area, restaurant, and live/workspaces in the building.

“The pandemic created many challenges for us, the biggest of which was finding skilled contractors,” said Gallup MainStreet Interim Executive Director Michael Bulloch. “My advice to anyone pursuing this kind of work would be to take baby steps. These projects are complex, and you need to consider the return of investment before starting.”
Buildings in Silver City, New Mexico. Photos courtesy of New Mexico MainStreet

Silver City MainStreet supported four historic façade renovations in their district: Light Art Space gallery (209 W Broadway St.), the historic Veslely building (300 N Bullard St.), the Murray Hotel (200 W Broadway St.), and the Yankie Street building and parklet (217 N Bullard St.). These buildings are prominent features of Silver City’s vibrant historic downtown and regularly attract locals and tourists. The updated façades removed the eyesores and brightened the entire district.

“It’s been wonderful to see these historic façades in downtown Silver City be restored,” said Silver City MainStreet Executive Director Charmeine Wait. “I would advise anyone who is pursuing this challenging and rewarding work to make sure the building owners have the appropriate resources to complete the work, and to pre-screen potential buildings to ensure they are a good fit for the grant requirements.”

Lessons Learned

New Mexico MainStreet’s Preservation and Design Revitalization Specialist William Powell worked extensively on these projects and offered the following top recommendations for others pursuing similar work:
  • When choosing façade projects in your district, look for low-hanging fruit. Examples include visibly prominent buildings where just a little work and attention can make a big improvement in the district.
  • Work with your local Main Street Program to discuss design and preservation considerations. These programs have many resources available to assist you since this is the nature of their work.
  • Professional drawings and renderings make a world of difference in communicating ideas to the review committee and proposing changes to a façade.
  • If the project/building is considered historic, a design professional with historic preservation experience is essential to the team. Having this expertise will save time, especially if compliance to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act is required.
  • Though the paperwork can seem daunting, showing up is half the battle. Rely on your Main Street Executive Director or Coordinating Program staff to assist you – it will be more manageable if you work together.
  • In many cases, preservation can save money, so be openminded about conserving materials and working with the building’s design and limitations. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with signage, lighting and paint while leaving a historic façade intact.
Thank you to Main Street America for welcoming New Mexico MainStreet’s districts to the inaugural Main Street Façade Improvement Grant Program, and for allowing Deming, Gallup and Silver City to share their experiences and top recommendations on the Main Street blog!

About the Author

New Mexico MainStreet develops local capacity to engage people, rebuild places and grow the entrepreneurial, creative & business environment resulting in economically thriving downtowns, greater business & employment opportunities, and a higher quality of life. NMMS was founded in 1984 and currently serves 31 affiliated MainStreet Districts, 12 state-authorized Arts & Cultural Districts, 6 Frontier & Native American Community projects, 4 Urban Neighborhood Commercial Corridor projects, and 9 Historic Theaters. Learn more at NMMS is a program of the New Mexico Economic Development Department.