Portales, New Mexico

Revitalizing Downtown

Downtown Portales, New Mexico, stands as the heart of the community, featuring the community’s history yet offering modern amenities.

Home to Eastern New Mexico University, Portales focused on bringing its downtown to life through a five-year action plan. 

Portales Stats

Population
Client Since
Median HH Income
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Post Pandemic Reality

In 2021, the Roosevelt County Community Development Corporation (RCCDC) recognized the urgent need to equip their team with community development tools for success in a post pandemic world. RCCDC entered into a partnership with Retail Strategies for downtown strategic planning, support of small businesses, and national retail recruitment.

Focus on Downtown

Retail Strategies visited the market taking a walking tour of downtown followed by a Downtown Strategic Visioning Workshop to gather input from city leaders, small business owners, and other downtown stakeholders.

Once the input was finalized a five-year action plan was delivered to RCCDC. From there, key areas of focus were identified for Retail Strategies to facilitate with RCCDC. 

Key areas of focus

Visible Results in Downtown

Activating Vacant Buildings

Through the Real Estate Analysis performed by Retail Strategies, key properties were identified as a focus for activation.

“One of the buildings Retail Strategies suggested we focus on was originally called The Star Gazer and was owned by our Main Street Program,” said Jodi Diaz, executive director of RRCDC. “When the Main Street Program stopped operating, a company called 311 Entertainment came to us and were able to get grant funding for renovation. So now what was an eye sore downtown is an event venue that is open Thursday through Saturday. They typically have live music, BBQ, drinks, and were recently part of the street dance for the Chamber. They blocked off a few blocks on Main Street and 311 Entertainment was open with food and drinks and food trucks.”

"311 Entertainment took a dilapidated building and working with the city found grant funding to renovate the space. It went from falling apart to being a really nice venue for the public in Portales. This was a huge win for the entire city, and it was originally identified in the Real Estate Analysis from Retail Strategies."
Jodi-Diaz
Jodi Diaz
Executive Director

Two years after the analysis, at least 5-6 of the vacant buildings have been filled with new businesses.

“The old Valley Furniture was also identified and has been purchased now. We’re excited to see what they do with that building that is also in downtown Portales.”

Vacant Storefront Art Program

When Retail Strategies conducted the Strategic Visioning Workshop for Downtown Portales, the district contained a number of vacant buildings throughout the district. As a short-term strategy to activate the storefronts, Retail Strategies recommended a vacant storefront art program that would utilize local artists to paint artwork on the vacant or boarded up storefronts to turn the challenge into an amenity.

 

RCCDC partnered with Eastern New Mexico University to utilize art students to install artwork on the vacant storefronts. Fortunately, many of the vacancies have now been filled with businesses, but the RCCDC utilized the students’ skills to paint their storefront windows to enhance Downtown Portales. This partnership is a great example of utilizing local expertise and resources to address a challenge.

Grant Funding

A Facelift for Downtown Buildings

Retail Strategies researched numerous façade grant programs from around the country to develop the program criteria and application for Portales. RCCDC used funds from a money market account for the Façade Grant program, each grant award is worth $1,500. By offering a reimbursable grant, the program aimed to remove financial barriers and encourage business owners to invest in their properties, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the city/county’s commercial corridors.

“In December of 2022 when RCCDC launched the Façade Grant program, which was another recommendation from Retail Strategies, we had a lot of interest very quickly,” said Diaz. 

"In the first eight months since the facade program launched, 13 businesses have improved their buildings as a result of participating in the program."
Jodi-Diaz
Jodi Diaz
Executive Director

College Town Collaboration

While the community has always had a great relationship with ENMU, they realized that the downtown area was not fully capitalizing on being a college town. The goal was to identify an opportunity to create a downtown event that would capitalize on high-traffic university events providing an add-on experience for students and faculty.

In September 2023 on ENMU’s Parents Weekend, Downtown Portales will be home to ENMU’s first ever downtown “Rally on Main” event. The weekend will feature live music, food trucks, inflatables, a beer and wine garden, pep rally, and other activities.

ENMU President, James Johnston said, “This event is the beginning of what we at ENMU intend to be many such ENMU/Portales collaborations to show off our fun, friendly, family-oriented community.”

"The Rally on Main event is the beginning of what we at ENMU intend to be many such ENMU/Portales collaborations to show off our fun, friendly, family-oriented community."
ENMU President, James Johnson
James Johnston
President, Eastern New Mexico University

Main Street will become a pedestrian-only zone, offering a weekend filled with fun activities right in the center of Portales. This event will provide the perfect opportunity for downtown restaurants and retailers to connect with the ENMU students and families.

Add-on Downtown Event

The Retail Strategies plan also outlined the need to continuously invite people downtown and provide authentic experiences for them to enjoy. Giving people a reason to come downtown and generate activity and creates a target audience for local businesses to capitalize on. The RCCDC created an add-on event to the existing Heritage Days celebration.

A Street Dance was added to the Friday night of the weekend which included dancing, food trucks, and other activities. One downtown business reported approximately 300 customers, at least 50 of which were new, as a result of the event.

Helping Small Businesses Thrive

“Our first small business training was the Property Owner Training that Retail Strategies hosted,” said Diaz. “That was so successful that we’ve decided to host one small business event each year. We understand that supporting existing and potential small businesses is a key component to evolving downtown Portales.”

This year RCCDC is partnering with Modern Woodmen to educate small business owners on tax savings for employees, succession planning, and employee/employer benefits.

Advice for Work in Your Downtown

“Being able to learn from a team of downtown experts has been incredibly helpful in my role,” said Diaz. “Having an outside entity outline the guidelines of the façade grant and explain a vacancy tax policy was really helpful. That isn’t something anyone on our team has expertise in.”

“Retail Strategies experience working with other college towns was also extremely enlightening,” explained Diaz. “They coached us on how to work back and forth with the University and on how to implement certain events. There is a new President at ENMU and he’s big on community and also on the RCCDC board. So when his initiative is getting the University and Downtown Portales more connected, Retail Strategies was able to give us those ideas and guidelines so it really helps to get things in motion.”

Retail Strategies experience working with other college towns was also extremely enlightening
Jodi-Diaz
Jodi Diaz
Executive Director

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