Part Three – Let’s Go Green

April 28, 2010

I can remember years ago when I first heard the term ‘green’.    It was in the 80’s and I was in high school.  Back then, green equaled tree-huggin-hippies (as my dad called them).  “Relics of the 60’s,” he told me.

In the 90’s, Al Gore began his environmental campaign with a new term- Global Warming.  Ok, it’s possible that the term has been around longer for that but the 90’s is when I remember hearing it with certain regularity.  We were popping a larger hole in the ozone, fossil fuels were going to wreck the planet and folks were starting to look for new ways to utilize our resources – especially on the home front – in commercial and residential building.  But those were the big cities where the ‘think tanks’ were and folks would appreciate the effort more.

Fast forward a few decades and look at what’s going on in Las Cruces.  Green building has found its way to Las Cruces.  Last week, I attended the ground breaking for Green Streets at the intersection of Brown and Compress Roads.  This 33 house development will be the first in our city and our state to build to a minimum Silver LEED level.  They’re going to incorporate solar features as well – and, let’s face it – Las Cruces is the perfect place to take advantage of solar power.  (For more information about LEED levels, please visit the US Green Building Council’s Page)

Here’s the video I put together of the groundbreaking.

All I can say is that it’s about time.  It’s time that we take a look at how we’re building and how what we’re building is going to affect our community for the next 20, 50, 100 years.  I’m still learning about building green but, from what I’ve seen of this projects and what other towns have done, I’m all for cutting energy costs in the heating and cooling areas as well as how much energy my appliances are using.  I look at my electric bill each month and think, “There’s got to be a better way.”

My hope for this project is that my friends and neighbors will take a look at the homes that are built and then incorporate what they’ve seen into their existing homes.  How about installing photo-voltaic panels at your home?  A friend of mine just did this and as soon as it was connected, it started going backwards.  You could replace those appliances with energy efficient models.  How old are your windows?  Yes, I know it can be an expensive proposition but let me give you two words: TAX CREDIT.  Did you know that you can get a tax credit for replacing appliances or even windows?  You can.  All it takes is a few minutes on Google to learn about it.  Pop open a new window and put in ‘tax credit windows’.  Look at what’s available. That’s a freebie for you.  Do the same thing for appliances.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised and maybe a little motivated as well.

For more information about Green Streets, stop by their Facebook page where they’ll be updating as the project rolls along.  The Green Streets Parade of Homes is slated for September 17th through October 20th.  The Building Industry of Southern New Mexico’s website will probably be updating as well.

And, just as a disclaimer – I don’t work for any of the builders involved or the BIASNM or so on.  In case you were wondering.

Las Cruces is on the Verge – Part II: University Corridor Plan

March 3, 2010

If you drive around the beautiful city of Tucson, you know immediately when you are near the University of Arizona.  Banners fly from every light pole with the U of A logo or the picture of a distinguished alumni, businesses fly the U of A flag…the list goes on and on.  Students don’t have to go far to meet up with friends at the local sports bar or just hang out together at a coffee shop.  Grocery and other types of shopping are close by.  Green credits (if I’ve got that name right) are given to tenants who don’t use a car or need a parking spot in some complexes.  Buses and other methods of transportation are readily available.  The nightlight is alive and well in places like Fourth Avenue.  As large as Tucson is, when you get near U of A, you know it.

So, what happened in little old Las Cruces?  We are proud of NMSU but once you hit University Drive, you’d barely know what all the buildings were.  No banners, no marquee (although I think that’s under construction near the Pan Am), no NMSU flags flying from any businesses, no nuttin’.  The houses along University look, for the most part, ghetto.  (Sorry but they do.)  It’s sad that there isn’t more to the University area.  Oh wait…

When I saw the new commercial space at Espina and University, I got excited.  Maybe…just maybe…plans are underway to improve the area.  It’s a beautiful building and visions popped into my head of not just a Starbucks but maybe a few apartments or condos above the retail space.  I imagined more buildings like that along the street – retail on the ground floor, living space above, better bike and walking paths for students to get to class as well as more activities for them in the form of a nightclub or two.  This could turn into an actual college area!

Last year, I found out about the City’s plans, called the University Corridor Plan.  The UPC calls for a revamping so to speak of the entire area, so to speak. The plan covers the area of University Drive south to Valley Dr and north to Triviz on the north side of the street.  Imagine it – shops, restaurants, night life along with apartments and condos lining University Drive.

Let’s look at some of the specifics –

According to the studies done on the area, approximately 6300 students, staff and faculty of NMSU live within a 3 mile radius, with approximately 2300 living within 1 mile.  The survey states that most of these residents will bike up to 3 miles to their destination.  A well built system of bike and walking paths would not only reduce vehicle traffic but bring Las Cruces into a ‘greener’ environment.

The overlay plan calls for mixed use meaning residential (high, medium and low density) along with office and retail space.  Page 3 of one of the Overlay Plans show an example of this.  It’s a similar plan to what the Downtown planners want.  This is a ‘new idea’ of sorts for Las Cruces.  We don’t have this kind of lay out anywhere that I can think of but I think it’s the perfect solution for the area.  Land is limited and to combine these aspects makes perfect sense.  Also see the illustration on Page 4 of this plan.

Other aspects to this include the fact that, with businesses located so close to campus, students wouldn’t have to rely on bus schedules or friends to get to work;  opportunities for more locally owned businesses.  This area could actually become a showcase of sorts.  Imagine what out of towners who come in for sports events and prospective students will think!  I would think they’d be highly impressed.

But it isn’t just the out of towners that would be impressed – us locals would be impressed as well!  It would be an area the rest of us would enjoy going to as well.  Let’s face it – how many of us actually spend time on that side of town?  I go over with a specific purpose – eat or a quick run to the Toucan Market.  I don’t ‘wander’ around.  The UPC offers us all a chance to park the car and window shop, eat dinner, then cross the street and head to a game or an exhibit on campus.

The UPC opens up the university to the rest of us who just don’t go over and enjoy the shows that are offered.  When was the last time you checked out an art exhibit or went to hear our fine symphony?  There are hidden gems on campus.  The UPC makes it more accessible to all of us.

And, quite honestly, I can’t wait!

Las Cruces is On The Verge – Part I: Spaceport

February 22, 2010

It’s really amazing to look at Las Cruces these days and compare it to where it was, say, 10 years ago.

We’ve all heard about the Spaceport. I will admit that when I first heard about this venture, I was little skeptical. I took a cursory look at what was planned and thought, “Oh great. A play ground for the rich.” Then I took a closer look and took the time to talk to folks who knew what was really going on in Upham, NM.

There are the naysayers, and they will always be around. But, after listening carefully, I’m all for it and I hope that, if you are still on the fence or firmly on the other side, that you’ll take some time to learn more.

So let’s take a look at some of the benefits I’ve discovered.

Employment. This is a huge issue in the area. One of my biggest pet peeves is watching our talented NMSU graduates leave the area year after year because there is no industry here to support them. With the Spaceport, we’re looking at 600 jobs. That’s right – 600 jobs from clerical to high tech, college graduate levels. What an amazing opportunity to keep our graduates here. And, who knows how that will happen as the mission of the Spaceport grows. Support staff at the NASA facility and possibly WSMR and Holloman might even grow.

Tourism: This is going to be beyond big for us. Tourists are going to come to the area to check out this Spaceport Thing. Yes, the location is about 90 minutes ‘up the road’ but they are going to stay here in Las Cruces. Just like the visitors that come in for Aggie athletics, city sports tournaments and the random family that is driving through to points west or east, these visitors are going to be spending money in our city at our hotels, restaurants and other tourist destinations. They aren’t going to be overnight guests, they’re going to be staying for a couple of days. The Spaceport is going to be a vacation destination – not just a quick stop on the way to wherever.

New Residents: We’ll definitely see an influx of new neighbors. Again, who knows what will happen at the support facilities like WSMR and NASA. There will be new neighbors coming in to work at the Spaceport who will be bringing in their families and letting their friends and family know just how wonderful our little corner of the world is.

There are more benefits, of course, but for now, I’ll stick with those points. Still not sold? Take time out of your schedule and attend the Spaceport’s next community meeting on April 22 at the Government Building on Motel Blvd. They are holding these quarterly. Visit http://www.spaceportamerica.com to catch up on the latest news, subscribe to their newsletter and find links to their Facebook and Twitter pages.