ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Barelas is a historic part of Albuquerque, but as many of the original businesses have closed or moved on, the community is working to revitalize the area.
Outside the Red Ball Cafe, is a newly re-painted red-and-blue checkered sidewalk — an original design to the business. Its touch-ups like these that the neighborhood is hoping will draw more people and interest to the area.
Barelas is a neighborhood full of history. “I was born and raised here in the area,” said Laticia Gutierrez. “My mother was born and raised here also.”
The people from here, tend to stick around. “This place has got a lot of history, and it can do very well. It used to do very well,” said Gutierrez.
Gutierrez is a Barelas native, and she’s starting to see her community come to life again. “Little by little, it looks like things are starting to dress up,” she said.
She took over the Red Ball Cafe, which opened in 1922, but it needed a lot of work. The Barelas Community Coalition (BCC) helped her get a $7,000 grant to make it more appealing.
“They bought us tables and chairs for the patio, plants so we could dress it up,” she said. They also repainted the original red-and-blue checkered sidewalk, and are adding landscaping and more seating.
The Red Ball Cafe is just one example of the revitalization efforts in Barelas, spearheaded by the BCC. “They’ve come and they’ve helped me do a lot of things, and they have a lot of really good ideas of how things should be,” said Gutierrez.
The coalition has big plans for the area. The proposed Barelas Mainstreet updates include the Fourth Street and Coal Avenue gateway, the Stover Avenue Church plaza, and the Ruppe Alley intervention.
“They really honor the history and tradition of the place,” said Amy Bell, a contracted revitalization specialist. Bell is working on more improvements for businesses like the Red Ball.
“Taco de Mexico, we’re looking at a design for a shade structure for their patio,” she said. Meanwhile, at Juanita’s Restaurant, they’re working on getting outdoor seating — all ways to improve the appeal of the area.
“I think if all of us business owners stick together and try to keep everything up, try to add businesses, it will, it will get better,” said Gutierrez.
Turning the lights back on for old neon signs, like the one at the former Arrow Market, is just one other idea the coalition has to bring back some color and life to this area.
Councilor Isaac Benton has been working with the Barelas neighborhood on some of the ideas. He said they recently re-striped Fourth Street, and just got funding for sidewalk extensions to help pedestrians and slow down traffic.