ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque and a group of property owners are at odds with new murals in Old Town. The City said they have to come down, but the property owners are not painting over it without a fight. Co-owner of Plaza Don Luis, Jasper Riddle, said he’s shocked after the City’s Landmarks Commission ruled two new murals on the property must go.
“We never even would’ve thought this would be an issue because we thought we were beautifying something,” said Riddle. While they never got the Certificate of Appropriateness or approval from the commission to put up murals in a protected historic neighborhood, he said a different state agency gave them the green light.
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“We asked who we thought was in charge of that which was art and culture. They said you don’t need permission, it’s private property, go at it,” Riddle said.
The City’s guidelines for Old Town, newly clarified in the fall, bans murals. While the murals were painted before then, the city said they still didn’t follow the older, broader versions of the rules which still required building exteriors to reflect Old Albuquerque. A petition with nearly a thousand signatures to keep the artwork didn’t sway the City.
“There was some painted signage, but artistic wall murals were not part of the artistic or cultural style of that period,” said Leslie Naji, senior historic preservation planner for the City of Albuquerque. The two sides are walking the fine line of how to revitalize Old Town while preserving it.
“To me, I think we’re losing sight of the fact that no, we’re not tearing down buildings, we’re not changing this but you do need to add some nuanced touches to get people to want to revisit areas they haven’t been in decades,” said Riddle. “We’re trying to show the history, we’re trying to show the integrity, we’re trying to showcase the beauty.”
“We want Old Town to blossom but we don’t want it to look like a, like a commercial destination. It’s a historic destination,” said Naji. “It can be tricky to try and maintain that but one with many slippery slopes as they say.”
Riddle said he has already filed a motion to appeal the decision. The issue will now go in front of city council. In the same Landmarks Commission meeting, the commission told Riddle the new railing in front of the winery connected to the plaza had to go too. They said it was one of the oldest brick buildings in Albuquerque and the railing was not appropriate.