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Downtown upgrades, free holiday parking announced

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Additional parking spaces, new street striping and free holiday parking are among improvements visitors to Downtown Albuquerque will notice this weekend.

City crews have changed out stop lights to four-way stops on Silver Avenue SW and Fourth/Fifth and Roma, re-painted roadways and added 19 new parking spaces as part of the improvement effort officials hope will attract more people Downtown.

Mayor Tim Keller on Friday talks about free parking at metered spaces throughout the city during the Christmas shopping season to help promote shopping locally. (Jim Thompson/Journal

In announcing the improvements during a news conference Friday in front of Lindy’s Diner on Central Avenue, Mayor Tim Keller said the city is working to make the area safer for visitors and residents to walk, eat and shop with the improvements.

“It’s just reality that regions rise and fall with the success of the downtown of their largest city,” Keller said. “That just happens to be right here – at Central Downtown in Albuquerque. What happens here does affect the rest of the state of New Mexico.”

The city took away bike lanes in order to accommodate the 19 new parking spaces. However, city planners established what officials called “sharrows” – shared lanes to allow bicyclists to safely use the entire lane on Fifth Street between Central Avenue and Gold Avenue SW and Fourth Street between Central Avenue and Copper Avenue NW.

“The loss of parking spaces was not helping Downtown,” said Councilor Issac Benton, who is known on the City Council as a cycling advocate. “With regard to my cyclist friends … the message of taking out a bike lane is hard to listen to but I’m a believer that Downtown should be a safe district for all users.”

City officials also rolled out a free parking plan to help patrons easily visit local businesses during the holiday shopping season.

All metered parking spaces in the city are free for two hours until Christmas Day. The city’s Parking Division will start enforcing metered parking again on Dec. 26.

Business owners such as Lindy’s owner Steve Vatoseow were appreciative to see those parking spaces return.

“When they took our parking away it was really a concern to us,” Vatoseow said. “Parking is such a premium downtown, so we notified the mayor’s office and they were on it. Well, not exactly on it – it took a year, but it got done.”

Recent Downtown improvements also include a new Albuquerque Police Department substation at the Alvarado Transportation Center at First and Central and “One Albuquerque: Engage,” an initiative encouraging new businesses to move in Downtown, while providing resources and support to local vendors utilizing the spaces.