ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Big plans are in the works for Albuquerque’s Barelas neighborhood. Keith Romero is the president of the Barelas Community Coalition and for the first time is revealing plans for the Barelas Great Blocks Project which will give 4th St. a $5 million makeover from Avenida Cesar Chavez to downtown.

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“Barelas is the oldest neighborhood in the city… 1662 is what I understand is when it was founded,” Romero said. “The idea is that it be geared to, beyond beautification to traffic calming and incentivizing pedestrian traffic to the benefit of the local business folks down there.”

Drawing inspiration from other areas of Albuquerque, like West Central, Romero says there will be a large gateway at 4th and Coal to welcome people to the neighborhood. “In my mind, that’s a real critical piece to draw attention from downtown,” Romero said.

Beautification is a big part of the project, with community members suggesting decorative lighting, vibrant tile, brightly colored benches, and more large-scale artwork, which Romero says is a big part of the neighborhood’s history. “The idea is to enhance and preserve that, if anything, not to replace it,” Romero said.

Making 4th St. more pedestrian-friendly is also a major goal. “If you know 4th St. at all or are familiar with it, it can be treacherous sometimes just crossing as a pedestrian,” Romero said.

Romero said people should expect bumpouts like the ones in Nob Hill to slow down traffic, along with better lighting, ADA compliant sidewalks, and elevated crosswalks. “It’s part of a larger idea, you know, 30,000-foot view about connectivity to all the other aspects of downtown,” Romero said.

Romero envisions people walking from the Rail Yard Market, the zoo, and the planned rail trail to the Barelas neighborhood which he believes will help spur on local businesses. “Hopefully we all benefit from it,” Romero said.

The city and state project will be done in phases over the next few years with work expected to begin this summer.