Albuquerque, at one time, seemed hell-bent on tearing down the old sections of the route for all new development – but it seems they are seeing what a lot of other folks and towns are seeing – the added value of the attraction that is known world-wide as Route 66!
Klarissa Peña remembers cruising on West Central, and now she’s part of the city’s push to try and restore the glamour and the glitz of old Route 66.
“We all appreciate cruising,” Peña said of the West Central community that includes one of the longest stretches of actively used Route 66, the iconic “Mother Road.”
Peña, president of the Southwest Alliance of Neighbors, Mayor Richard Berry and other dignitaries were at a recent ribbon cutting for a gleaming new fire station on 57th Street and West Central. They briefly described to celebrants upcoming projects intended to improve safety and to spur economic development in the area in the next several years. Mentioned were a new library, a series of road, safety and sidewalk improvements, new senior housing and a new visitor’s center on Nine Mile Hill, along with a long list of other potential economic development projects.
“What we hope to do is entice people to get off the interstate to come into the community and shop and to take in some of the sights, like the breathtaking view of the city viewable from historic Route 66,” Peña said.
The City Council in fall 2010 began planning a new West Route 66 Sector Development Plan. The plan noted that in the past 20 years the area suffered from stagnant commercial development, while single-family housing boomed in surrounding areas.
That left a significant imbalance between jobs and services and housing, and thus West Central became a commuter road instead of a destination for jobs, service, retail or more diverse housing.
Peña said she’s “absolutely thrilled” that the building of a new community library is slated to start sometime next summer at Central and Unser, providing critical educational services to area schools and residents.
During public hearings as part of developing a sector plan, the city heard recommendations that it encourage new multifamily and senior housing, attract new commercial development and retain its cultural legacy, including the preservation of Route 66, agrarian traditions, expansive views and the eclectic and unique character of the area, which is marked by its collection of roadside neon lit travel motels, gas stations and cafes.
Particularly involved with the plans for the area have been the mayor, City Councilor Isaac Benton and County Commissioner Art De La Cruz, Peña said.
“We want to bring back the character of the Old Route 66 and develop an Uptown center kind of shopping experience for people on West Central and the West Side,” Peña said. “We still have a long way to go, but with the enthusiasm and the tenacity of the people here, I have no doubt we’re going to be successful.”