About a half-mile stretch of road in one of Albuquerque’s oldest neighborhoods will get a facelift, thanks to some help from state funding that was announced at a news conference Tuesday at the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce.
The multi-million dollar project, known as Great Blocks, in the Barelas neighborhood will see portions of Fourth Street — from Coal Avenue all the way to Barelas Road — transformed with a new streetscape design, a gateway structure, new lighting and other improvements aimed at making the area more pedestrian friendly, officials said. The stretch of road where construction will take place includes Por Vida Tattoo Shop, El Taco de México, Coronado School and other businesses.
The announcement of state funding for the project drew a crowd of local and state officials — including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes — as well as community leaders.
State assistance came in the form of $1.9 million in capital outlay funding and an additional $390,000 from the Legislature.
Keith Romero, president of the Barelas Community Coalition, said the total project cost currently stands at about $7.4 million with the adjustment for inflation and rising construction costs. The project is expected to break ground next spring.
The project will include improvements to the sidewalks along Fourth Street, which will expand with the relocation of curbs and gutters. Aesthetics along the stretch of road will also improve with the addition of trees, benches and lighting. And two intersections — including the one near Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Stover Avenue — will be raised to help give the area a plaza feel, MRWM Landscape Architects Principal Robert Loftis said.
A gateway structure with the words “Bienvenidos a Barelas” will be placed at Fourth Street and Coal Avenue. Benches, trash cans and bike racks are expected to be color coordinated to give the area a cohesive feel. New lighting is also included in the project.
“Fundamental to this whole project is that it’s community driven,” Romero told a crowd Tuesday. “It’s community driven, and it is about equitable development.”
MRWM Landscape Architects is serving as the lead design consultant on the project and Loftis said early next year the project will likely put out requests for a general contractor.
The revitalization of the Barelas neighborhood has not stopped there, however. Homewise, a community development finance institution, has also recently invested in the area with two projects that total $9.9 million.
The projects include the renovation of a 3,500-square-foot space at 803 Second NW that will be turned into a daycare and a 20,000-square-foot space on Fourth Street that will ultimately house the Street Food Institute and a variety of local businesses.
“When these projects get built, the buildings get rehabilitated and new small businesses come in,” Loftis said. “So, it’s really meant to lift the entire community.”