Friday, April 19, 2013

Stroll to rediscover Main Street Downtown

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — Have you strolled Main Street lately? Kindly persons operating in official capacities have reminded me from time to time that we should not refer to the area in question as “the Downtown Mall” since technically, it’s no longer a mall. But in my heart, it may always be. And I’m not alone. It was a mall when I arrived here in 1994, and its history stretches back to urban renewal projects in the late 1960s, so generations have grown up knowing it as the Downtown Mall. Though the yellow brick road is gone and it’s finally open from stem to stern, when I suggest meeting someone in “historic Main Street Downtown,” the area’s official moniker, I’m usually greeted with a puzzled look, followed by, “Oh, you mean the Downtown Mall.” Whatever you call it, it’s changed dramatically — and for the better. And I still think a stroll is the best way to appreciate the area’s transformation. When I arrived two decades ago, there was a lot of urban decay, enough scary people and situations that I was wary about visiting at night and sometimes, during the day. There were a few bright spots, and they’ve survived: Coas My Bookstore, White’s Music Box, the Branigan Cultural Center, the Las Cruces Community Theatre and the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market, which now stretches, on Saturday morning, its busiest day, from almost to Amador on the south to the new Las Cruces City Hall on the north. Some old favorites have been transformed or rejuvenated. Las Cruces Furniture morphed into the ultra-modern New America School. The Popular, a department store cherished by generations of local shoppers, now houses two popular restaurants. The Rio Grande Theatre has been restored and updated to become a community performance center and headquarters for the Doña Ana Arts Council. With the addition of the intimate adobe Black Box Theatre, we have our own downtown three-theater district, with additional performing space in the beautifully renovated Court Youth Center, home base for artistic students at the Alma d’arte Charter High School. When I arrived, downtown hosted just one major museum (and its little used, since-relocated log cabin annex). Now, three more have joined the Branigan Cultural Center: the Las Cruces Museum of Art, Railroad Museum and Museum of Nature and Science. We’ve added the sprawling new Federal Building, a new city hall and the artistic La Placita. We have enough galleries in and around downtown to make each first Friday Downtown Ramble an adventure. The Downtown Las Cruces Partnership, the city and businesses and civic organizations have worked together to add some facade spruce-ups, landscaping and some fun fiestas that showcase the area, including WinterFest, SalsaFest!, Avenue Art New Mexico (a street art event that runs from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 27) and seasonal parades. And, as of this year, we’re back, too, in the beautiful, brand new Las Cruces Sun-News building, overlooking it all. It’s good to be back in the ’hood. S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at; 575-541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.


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