Southwest-inspired site plan aims to make cemetery more inviting

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – One of Albuquerque’s biggest cemeteries is updating its site plan to make it a more inviting place.

Sunset Memorial Park near Menaul and I-25 wants to showcase New Mexico culture and accommodate changes in the funeral business.

Colorful windows, bright door frames, ristras and adobe buildings aren’t the first images that come to mind when it comes to cemeteries.

“We’re trying to get people to see the cemetery in a different light through our design, our construction, having events in the park, encouraging people to come in and walk their dog in the park,” Sunset Memorial Park Executive Director Chris Keller stated.

The cemetery takes pride in its so-called Santa-Fe style architecture.

“It’s kind of a blend of the Spanish and Native American adobe structures,” Keller explained. “And then Santa Fe has the added ability to get kind of artsy and quirky with it and have color popping out of it and art.”

It’s something they want to continue, now putting in a request to a city planning commission to approve an updated site plan for a new plaza surrounded predominantly by cremation space.

Keller said the rate of cremations in Albuquerque has spiked between 60 percent and 65 percent. In Rio Rancho, that rate is closer to 75 percent.

“What we need is not more acres and acres of casket spaces under grass, but what we need are beautiful cremation pavilions and niche walls and above-ground spaces,” Keller said. “[The site plan includes] a central plaza, and everything around it will be focused in on that central plaza just like you see in Old Town or Taos or Santa Fe.”

It’s a way to not only make the space more comforting for people laying a loved one to rest, but to get people to change their perspective of cemeteries as something other than a somber graveyard.

They’ll present the site plan to the Environmental Planning Commission on Thursday. City Council will have to give the final sign-off.

This isn’t the first time the company that owns this cemetery has made an effort to grab people’s attention. A few years ago they put up unusual billboards trying to inject some humor into an otherwise somber topic.

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