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Stakeholders Hope for Expedient Redevelopment of Unfinished South Main Street Property

An unfinished commercial property sits in the heart of Las Cruces, unchanged, despite years of conversations and development ideas. Now, city officials and other local stakeholders are hoping for an expedient redevelopment of the property, located on the corner of South Main Street and Amador Avenue.

Las Cruces City Councilor Johana Bencomo says the city is currently in conversations with the property owner. She estimates the public will see movement within the next year.

“It's been really a balance of how do we move forward and try to get this developed, and not take anybody's rights away,” Bencomo said. “But at the same time, I have given the city manager a task and said this is actually urgent. It has been a decade with zero movement, and it is now time to do something.”

Las Cruces Community Partners [LCCP] currently holds a long-term lease on the property from Texas owner John Hoffman. LCCP’s Bob Pofahl talked to KRWG about a recent effort by the city to purchase the property, noting the endeavor is still in the appraisal stage.

Pofahl says the difference between this appraisal process and past efforts is the inclusion of the former Doña Ana County Courthouse.

“We're anxiously awaiting this appraisal,” Pofahl said. “Usually, as a developer, you want the appraisal to come in real low so you buy something, but we're hoping it comes high enough that it meets Mr. Hoffman's requirement.”

While he says the appraisal amount required by Hoffman to sell is confidential, Pofahl is hopeful for rapid progress. He shared that his goal is to work with the city and other key stakeholders to create a four-star hotel from the bones of the old courthouse.

“We hope in the next three or four months we'll have some great news for everybody,” Pofahl said. “And it's great to be partnering with the city and others to try and make this happen.”

For Main Street business owners like Troy Stegner, the owner of Zia Comics, further property development means a greater economic investment into the future of downtown.

“It's right there at the gateway into Main Street,” Stegner said. “You got the brand-new visitor’s bureau building there, the new Amador Live complex right there, and then right next to it you have that framed up monstrosity.”

Stegner stressed clear city procedures and processes must be put in place in order to spur development. He says both the city and state need to look at ways to streamline the development process to help new and existing businesses grow.

“The city professes that they want downtown to succeed,” Stegner said. “They dropped a lot of money into renovating downtown. They want it to be the crown in their jewel, well, then you got to get out there and polish that jewel to make it shine.”

The city is currently working on an update to the development code through an initiative called Realize Las Cruces. Councilor Bencomo says the city has hired an outside firm tasked with looking at code redevelopment for unfinished commercial properties.

“The firm we hired has been tasked with looking at specifically this issue of unfinished commercial properties, unfinished subdivisions, and what exactly in the code we can put so that the city has a little bit more power,” Bencomo said.

Bencomo says ensuring a thriving downtown community is a high priority for the city council, urging Las Cruces residents to continue voicing their frustrations about the property to her and other city officials.

“I'm not going to ask people to be patient, because I think people have been patient for over a decade,” Bencomo said. “But I want people to keep making sure that we as a city council know that this is an urgent matter.”

Madison Staten was a Multimedia Reporter for KRWG Public Media from 2020-2022.