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Building a Downtown Creative Community Moves Closer to Fruition

on March 15, 2012 - 10:35pm

LACDC News:

Following is a trip report from last week's visit by PLACE representatives:

Welcome to PLACE, and to our first communication about Los Alamos. We will use this communication tool to keep you up-to-date on our efforts to build a new Creative Community in downtown Los Alamos.

We just returned from a very successful site visit. We were there to determine if the necessary ingredients were in place for us to build a successful new multi-use, sustainable community within the downtown, and more specifically, the downtown Creative District.

Here is a very brief overview of our findings:

1. Vision Analysis (what is the intended program?). We spoke to over 100 citizens with broad representation. A few common themes emerged.

  • Housing
    • For sale/For rent/Lease-to-own (both short-term & long-term)
      • Market-rate apartments
      • Affordable apartments
      • Supportive housing
  • Live/Work Designed for Creatives (Artists, Scientists, Inventors, Technologists)
  • Jobs
    • Clean-tech manufacturing
    • Worker-owned cooperatives
    • Waste-to-energy
    • Retail,hospitality, education, health care
  • Hospitality/Event Center
    • Performance space to be shared with local cultural organizations
    • Social gathering space
  • Creative Retail/Office/Commercial
    • For-sale space/For-rent space/Lease-to-own space
      • Local/Independent artisan shops
      • Espresso Gallery
      • Wine bar/Jazz Club/Oxygen bar/dance club (preferably one that stays open past 9:00 pm)
      • Fine dining
  • Education Space
    • School
    • University space
    • Gymnastics/fitness, sports
  • Health care
  • E-Generation™ Waste-to-Energy
    • Convert organics to renewable energy

In general, the vision expressed by community leaders seems challenging, but, in our experience, feasible. We also agree with community members that this vision described above would make a positive contribution to Los Alamos.

2. Site Analysis (Is there a suitable location?). We toured potential sites in and around the downtown and Creative District boundaries. Depending on varying opinions, we identified between seven and nine excellent potential sites.

3. Financial Analysis (Can we pay for the project?). We spoke to financial leaders about existing resources at the Local, State and Federal level. We also met potential lenders. Based on our experience, there is reason to believe that we can assemble the necessary funding to build a Creative Community like the one envisioned.

4. Market Analysis (Is there a demand for the project?). According to focus-group attendees, there would be need and demand for all of the above, but the emphasis was on making it low-cost. Due to the small number of community members who braved a brief snow shower to attend the public forum, this is one area of doubt for us. Note: you can help by getting Los Alamos community members to join this list and share their thoughts with us. We would like to grow this conversation to several hundred people.

5. Leadership Analysis (do we have strong support from Los Alamos leaders?). We definitely have strong, organized leadership from the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation.

In Los Alamos, it seems safe to say that support from The Lab will be essential. We did meet with representatives from The Lab, and found significant interest for the vision. Those representatives have begun a process within Lab leadership to support the effort. Lab reps believe that involving The Lab's senior management Duncan and Alan (last names?) will be important.

We also will need to build broad community support that is strong enough to convince County Council members that investing in a project like this is a smart investment, and that it will be leveraged many times over. We did meet David Izraelevitz, and Fran Berting from the Council and they have not raised any red flags as of yet.

So, that is a quick summary of our findings from last week.

The Next Step in Los Alamos

We have submitted an agreement to the LACDC for us to prepare a detailed plan showing how we would plan, design, fund, and permit such a development. In other words, a budget, schedule and task list for all necessary steps to move the project to ground breaking.

Sincerely,

The PLACE Team


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