To encourage a vibrant, historic downtown Silver City which is recognized as the heart of our diverse community.
Silver City MainStreet will be a highly visible, respected, credible community economic development program that is recognized for its ability to bring economic vitality and growth to Silver City's downtown while preserving and enhancing local culture and historic resources.
Silver City MainStreet will be recognized for its ability to foster a sense of community pride and to improve quality of life, in addition to encouraging the growth of small businesses, improving local employment and income opportunities, and preserving the heritage of the community.
Silver City MainStreet Celebrates 30 Years of Downtown Economic Revitalization Efforts in 2015
Silver City MainStreet was founded in 1985 and is celebrating a legacy of 30 years of enhancements and economic revitalization in the downtown historic district. For the past two years MainStreet has been coordinating the renovation of the Silco Theater, located at 311 N. Bullard Street. The reopening of the historic theater, built in 1923, anticipated to be in late November, will bring movies back to downtown. The opening of the theater will also create new jobs and contribute to the economic vitality of the already active downtown entertainment scene.
Additionally, MainStreet is currently working on coordinating improvements to Main Street Plaza, home of the Silver City Farmers Market. MainStreet is working with the Town of Silver City to obtain funding for improvements to the downtown “gathering place” which also provides much needed parking for the downtown when not being used for the Farmers Market on Saturday morning from May until October. Partners in the effort to improve Main Street Plaza are the Silver City Farmers Market, Silver City Food Co-op, Grant County Trails Group and the Town of Silver City.
During April, the first MainStreet Project Manager, Sandy Solenberger, visited in Silver City and shared memories of the founding of MainStreet in Silver City. Solenberger was involved in the development of MainStreet in a variety of roles between 1985 and 1995, when she and her family relocated to Kodiak Island, Alaska. Solenberger shepherded the fledgling organization through the incorporation process. The current organization was developed from what was initially the Downtown Rehabilitation Committee. The committee was comprised of business owners and community members who were concerned about the 35% to 40% vacancy rate in downtown first floor commercial buildings. The poor condition of the sidewalks was also a concern. Solenberger said that the sidewalks looked like “broken taffy”.
At the state level, New Mexico MainStreet, a division of the Economic Development Department, provided technical support to the newly developed local organization. Even today, we are reminded that the work of MainStreet is incremental and is never completely finished. Solenberger’s recounting of her experience with MainStreet during the first ten years of the program, reminds us that a long term view is needed for revitalization projects as complex as a downtown historic district. A great deal of patience and tenacity is also required.
When Solenberger visited, she was thrilled to see the Visitors Center and the MainStreet Offices located in the 201 N. Hudson Street building. The current offices are a big step up from Solenberger’s original “office” which was a desk under the stairs at City Hall. During her tenure, Solenberger had worked on the plans for the Visitor Center but had not seen the building. She was also very instrumental in obtaining the donation of the lot for the Visitor Center.
Solenberger did see improvements to the sidewalks and increased occupancy of commercial properties in the district during her ten years of involvement with the project. She noted great community participation in downtown events such as the Lighted Christmas Parade as a turning point for understanding what a treasure a vibrant downtown is for a community. MainStreet is currently celebrating the 25th year of the Lighted Christmas Parade, on Saturday, November 28, at 7:00 pm. Other popular events that have been more recently added to promote the downtown experience are: Big Ditch Day and Taste of Downtown. The current downtown commercial first floor vacancy rate fluctuates between 12% and 15%. MainStreet’s current challenge is attracting businesses for larger commercial spaces that are for sale or rent.
A real treasure in downtown Silver City is Big Ditch Park, which includes the grounds at the Visitor Center on the corner of Broadway and Hudson Street and follows the San Vicente Creek north to College Street. Improvements to the park were started while Solenberger was involved with MainStreet and continue today. In 2012, long awaited Interpretive Signage explaining how the Big Ditch was created where Main Street once thrived prior to a series of floods in the early 1900’s was installed. Last year, the faded Visitor Center sign was replaced with a new sign that lights up. The replacement was made possible with Silver City Lodgers Tax Funding.
In 2014, Silver City was designated as the first gateway community of the Continental Divide Trail, which has been developed from Canada to Mexico along the continental divide. The Visitor Center is the “headquarters” for those using the Continental Divide Trail in the Silver City area. This year, MainStreet celebrated Big Ditch Day in April in conjunction with The Continental Divide Trail Season Kick-off Event.
Solenberger credited former State Representative, Murray Ryan, with helping to bring funding from the state for infrastructure improvement projects in the downtown, including the sidewalk improvements, Big Ditch Park and the Visitor Center, named the Murray Ryan Visitor Center, in his honor. Ryan stated, “MainStreet has been a marvelous project for Silver City and I watched MainStreet carefully during the time I served in the legislature.”
MainStreet also coordinated the downtown street light retrofit with the “acorn” streetlights. The project can be expanded to include additional areas in downtown if funding were to be made available. In 2010, MainStreet completed the Gateway Arch, at the Broadway entrance to Downtown. The seed money for the project was provided by the Silver City Rotary Club and the project completed with support from the community. In 2011, Silver City MainStreet was recognized as a “Great American Main Street” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Solenberger said that the award, the only community is New Mexico, to be honored, was well deserved. Current MainStreet Manager, Lucy Whitmarsh added, “Without the firm foundation built by Solenberger and additional dedicated individuals, MainStreet could not have become the dedicated champion for economic revitalization in the downtown historic district that it is today.”