Plaza plan pitches major changes

SANTA FE (KRQE) – The Santa Fe Plaza’s sights and sounds draw people to the city and state from all across the globe. It’s a centuries-old staple with a lasting appeal.

Just weeks after his election, Mayor Javier Gonzales rolled out a new plan aimed at making big changes to the state’s most famous square.

A lot of Gonzales’ plan is centered around safety. On Saturday, Santa Fe Police stepped up patrols downtown including the Plaza area.

But another piece, aimed in some ways at a similar goal, is stirring up debate in the City Different.

Gonzales’ resolution, introduced at Santa Fe City Council last week, calls for shutting down the Plaza to almost all car traffic.

Right now just the North end, Palace Avenue, is closed to cars. Under the proposal, only certain cars servicing Plaza businesses would be allowed.

Gonzales’ hope is by making the Plaza more pedestrian and bike friendly, it’ll allow for a more creative use of the space vehicles currently take up. One idea, open-air tables in front of Plaza restaurants.

“Limiting vehicles on the Plaza is a way to create a safe environment for people to be mobile around the area,” Gonzales said. “The Plaza needs to be the heartbeat of this community and for it to be that people need to come down here and they need to gather.”

And Gonzales wants the major change made soon. He’s pushing to have a resolution passed in time for Memorial Day.

“It’s quite controversial and I was a little surprised it was one of his first priorities,” said Simon Brackley, President and CEO of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce. “I think there’s a lot of concern among the local merchants and locals about accessing the Plaza.”

Although fears of lost business and lost access are an issue with some of the Plaza area businesses, Marianne Griego with Mama’s Minerals says she gets the Mayor’s point and likes the idea. But Griego is one of many concerned about what street changes on the Plaza could do to downtown parking.

“There’s not enough parking for people who visit,” Griego said. “There’s not enough parking for locals who visit during peak summer season.”

Gonzales says if business suffers the city can roll back the change. Despite the strong push, Gonzales says he’s open to compromise.

“This doesn’t have to be simply close it or keep it open,” Gonzales said. “We may find that there’s some kind of modified approach to this.”

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