ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – There are some changes coming to the Old Town Plaza that the City of Albuquerque hopes will bring more life to the plaza once the COVID-19 pandemic slows down. The plaza can become less than inviting when it gets dark.
“It’s actually probably around 5ish or so, it’s pretty dead around here. There’s not a lot of people, not a lot of cars, I mean the sundown, goes down earlier so I think that plays a factor in it,” Estephanita Garcia, Manager at the Covered Wagon in Old Town, said.
The city is hoping to change that in the future and make the plaza more inviting into the evening hours. It’s replacing 18 tops of light posts and eight lights in the gazebo that will be able to dim and change color.
“We could light the plaza to choose red or green. We could light the plaza in our Lobo colors, we’re going to have unlimited options to make the plaza more exciting and festive,” Simon said.
The city is also adding 1,500 feet of white, LED lights around the plaza.
“We’re going to, first of all, get 10-times as much light as we have now on the plaza,” Dave Simon, Director of Albuquerque’s Parks and Recreation Department said. “These are going to bring a wonderful new atmosphere to the Old Town Plaza in keeping still with the old fashion spirit and atmosphere that we have here in this historic heart of our city.”
While the governor is asking everyone to stay home for now as COVID-19 continues to spread across the state, Simon said he’s hopeful the changes will help nearby businesses eventually recover from the pandemic.
“We’ll still have to comply with all public health orders,” he said. “But, I think what we’re doing is setting up the plaza for continued and better success going forward. And hopefully, for those days when we can return to some normalcy here on the plaza, we’re going to have enormous opportunities at that point to enhance outdoor dining and utilize and activate this space in new ways.”
It’s something businesses are on board with.
“I think it’s really great. It’s actually probably one of the better things that’s happening around here because, drawing in that business, we’re grateful for anything we can get,” Garcia said. “I think it’s going to be great to have a little bit more availability for people so that way it’s not crowded at certain times and so, we can kind of definitely maintain the COVID aspect of things as well. It will give us some more opportunity to have later hours or things like that.”
The city is also going to make some changes and relight Founders Plaza, which sits just before Old Town at the intersection of Rio Grande Boulevard and Romero Street. Simon calls it the gateway to Old Town.
“It’s really a significant spot for us and we felt like it wasn’t getting the proper treatment that it should. So, we’re going to remove some of the visual clutter at Founder’s Plaza so people can see it. And then illuminating it again with color-changing lights to light up the statue, Old Town Albuquerque sign which never had lights and also the beautiful waterfall at Founder’s Plaza.”
Simon said the relighting will be complete in the next two weeks. The project costs about $180,000 and is paid for by city funds and CARES Act funding.
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