The city of Roswell is preparing the former municipal airport property in north Roswell for developers to build into a residential, multifamily, business and recreation area, says Bill Morris, community development manager. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

‘Unique’ community would build on aviation theme

The city of Roswell is unveiling more about its plans for development of the former airport acreage on the north side of town, envisioning an area that will eventually entice new residents and businesses to the city.

The next formal step in that process will be the introduction of a road grid sometime in August.

Bill Morris, community development manager, talked Friday about the concepts for the acreage surrounding West College Boulevard, ideas that could take 10 to 20 years to come to fruition as private developers would be the ones to build.

“We are looking to create a new place inside OMA (the Old Municipal Airport), inside Roswell,” Morris said to county and municipal representatives at a Southeast New Mexico Economic Development District meeting. “It is gonna be a mixed-use community, but not just a jumble of unrelated commercial and residential properties. It is going to be a community place.”

Morris said the city has been left wondering what to do with the acreage for about 50 years.

The land of about 640 acres was once the city’s airport for non-military air services. It is bound by 19th Street on the north, Eighth Street on the south, Sycamore Avenue on the west and Montana Avenue on the east. West College Boulevard runs through the middle.

When Walker Air Force Base closed in 1967, the city acquired ownership of that airfield and surrounding property. So the city transferred its commercial air services to the southside air base, now called the Roswell International Air Center. It closed the former municipal airport and eventually demolished the terminal building, the control tower and runways.

In recent years, the city has designated some of the OMA land for recreational purposes. Cielo Grande Recreation Area and the new Recreation and Aquatics Center are on the south side of West College Boulevard, while softball fields, an archery range and a current construction project for a New Mexico Game and Fish complex, to include youth recreation sites, are on the north side of the street.

The city is in the process of preparing its request to the Federal Aviation Administration for a full release of the land, and has been working with the city Planning and Zoning Commission and the Roswell City Council to submit its master plan, design guidelines and road grid.

What Morris said he and other city staff foresee is a multi-phased mixed-use development divided in quadrants that emphasizes walkability and “bikeability” and utilizes roundabouts rather than traffic signals.

Some areas will have single family homes, townhouses and duplexes. Another will introduce a concept to Roswell seen in larger cities — buildings with apartments on upper levels and retail businesses on the ground floor. This section will include a central plaza for community gatherings and events. “Commercial reserves” would be for a grocery store, restaurants or other businesses. Other portions will focus on recreation, including tree-lined trails, a brook and fishing ponds. A drone facility is also possible for the area.

Morris said that what also will make the area different is that it will be tied together by a common theme, in this case, an aviation theme.

“We want to create a place, so we have to create a theme,” he said, “something that when you were there, you would know you were in a unique place within the city.”

Roads will be named for airlines or aviation companies, and architectural features will be reminiscent of the 1930s and ‘40s art deco designs, popular during the area when U.S. aviation began to take over nationwide, including in Roswell. That was the era when rocket developer Robert H. Goddard; his funder, the Guggenheim family; and his friend Charles Lindberg were flying in and out of the area, Morris said. The new Recreation and Aquatic Center “hints” at the aviation theme, with an entrance that looks a bit like the former airport control tower.

Much remains to be done by the city, including a planned rerouting of Eighth Street east of Sycamore Avenue so that it meets up with Eighth Street west of Sycamore. But also, much relies on being able to attract private developers to fund and build projects, Morris said.

He added that single-family homebuilders would likely be the first to develop in the area.

“Residential will go first,” he said. “We have builders asking where they can go next.”

Mixed-use developments are regaining popularity in the United States, according to a Deloitte Services article. They were the dominant form of city living in the 1900s, but faded out as people began to prefer single-family housing separate from commercial areas and grew comfortable with driving frequently. The article said mixed-use projects have re-emerged in cities in recent years as more people in all age groups are telling market analysis researchers that they would prefer to live in areas where they can walk to restaurants, coffee shops and businesses.

Following his presentation, Morris was asked what the city was planning for south Roswell. He said there are efforts to create affordable housing in the Roswell International Air Center area.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

By Lisa Dunlap

 
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