Belen — The Belen MainStreet Partnership was recently awarded $1.69 million in capital outlay funding for the second phase of its Great Blocks on MainStreet Project in downtown Belen.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department and New Mexico MainStreet awarded $10 million in Capital Outlay funding to 11 community revitalization projects in affiliated NMMS districts.

Submitted photos
Improvements will be made between at First and Becker streets north to the walking bridge at Reinken Avenue in Belen.

Belen MainStreet Partnership and the city of Belen will use the funds for phase 2 of pedestrian improvements at First and Becker streets north to the bridge.

“Thanks to everyone involved, especially the Belen Mainstreet board (of directors), office team and, of course, the city of Belen,” said Jay Peters, BMSP president. “It was definitely the persistence, support and love for this city that made this happen. This initiative began even before I was a board member or president so everyone that began this journey years ago should be proud! A huge thanks to New Mexico Mainstreet for supporting our efforts to improve Belen.”

Rhona Espinoza, the executive director of the Belen MainStreet Partnership, said the work to be done will include widening of First Street, new sidewalks, a new entry into the Belen Harvey House Museum property, park benches, shade structures, landscaping, drainage improvements and lighting.

“It means we will be able to really celebrate our downtown,” Espinoza said. “These grants are awarded exclusively and in continuous blocks in our downtown area.

“I appreciate the support of New Mexico MainStreet, our Belen MainStreet board and the city of Belen for making this possible.”

Espinoza said the city and BMSP will be asking for engineering bids for the project in the near future.

In 2020, BMSP, in partnership with the city, received nearly $700,000 grant for infrastructure improvements on Becker Avenue between First and Second streets.

The NMMS Capital Outlay program funds public infrastructure upgrades in targeted public investment areas to positively impact local economies. Projects directly support economic growth, property renovation, public safety, business development and job creation.

Some of the work to be done will include widening of First Street, new sidewalks, a new entry to the Belen Harvey House Museum, park benches, shade structures, landscaping, drainage improvements and lighting.

“Capital outlay funding from the New Mexico Legislature supports infrastructure projects statewide that upgrade utilities, improve public safety and ADA access, preserve historic assets and much more,” said Acting Economic Development Secretary Jon Clark. “We’re grateful for this funding because these visible improvements make MainStreet districts safer and more accessible/welcoming for the entire community.”

NMMS works with districts to identify catalytic economic development projects based on the community’s master plan, cultural economic development plan or Metropolitan Redevelopment Area Plan. Projects must impact the local economy, improve the appearance and functionality of the district, create connectors and engage local property/business owners.

Qualifying projects include improvements to streets, sewers, utilities, lighting, pedestrian safety, street amenities, wayfinding, landscaping, placemaking and performance/gathering spaces.

“We’re thankful for the Legislature’s continued support for this vital program that transforms communities for the better,” said NMMS Director Daniel Gutierrez. “These public infrastructure projects are years in the making — they require innovative planning and coordination among many key players. Congratulations to this year’s award recipients and thank you to all the project partners for working diligently to improve New Mexico communities.”

The other projects funded include Barelas MainStreet, $4 million; Clovis MainStreet, $500,000; Historic Downtown Farmington, $50,000; Lovington MainStreet, $400,000; Nob Hill MainStreet, $114,000; Ruidoso Midtown Association, $265,000; South Valley MainStreet, $410,000; Taos MainStreet, $1 million; MainStreet Truth or Consequences, $1,016,000; Zuni MainS

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.