The work of a second ad hoc committee to define plans for a proposed Multi-Use Facility to include a space for performing arts, is far from finished, as more input is being sought before the committee’s six-month term expires in April.
At the Multi-Use Facilities Committee’s Oct. 19 meeting, committee members grappled with lots of questions members brought up – and those posed by members of the public attending the meeting.
The committee’s chair, Johnny Martinez, said he wanted the process to be open, inclusive and transparent. He suggested one way to find a “balance” for what people wanted was to survey community members.
“It’s not about my agenda, or anyone on this committee’s agenda; it’s what we’re trying to do for the village,” he said, noting the short timeframe of the committee. “I don’t know if we’ve gathered enough information from the village (as a whole). I want to make sure we get it right.”
The first set of designs for a Arts, Culture and Education (ACE) center were drawn up based on information the initial committee had gathered during its six-month term. It included an auditorium with permanent seating for about 240 people, meeting rooms and gallery space.
But some of the initial feedback questioned whether the facility might be too big, or didn’t include amenities that would suit the village. And some folks questioned whether the village – known for its agriculture and horses – needed a performing arts facility at all.
And others have expressed concern about an anchor tenant to the building that could potentially dominate the facility’s schedule and create fewer opportunities for other groups, like students at the elementary school.
Committee member Barbara Boyd, who also served on the first committee, explained that the initial committee was tasked with considering a performance arts facility alone. After gathering input, the committee realized that a theater-only facility “wasn’t going to fly,” she said. The public wanted something that would be more flexible. So the committee pivoted and included the meeting rooms and gallery.
Boyd, who also serves on the board of directors for the Adobe Theater, which used to hold performances at the old San Ysidro Church in Corrales, acknowledged the Adobe Theater would like to come back to Corrales.
“We have raised our hand and said we’d love to come back,” she said, “but, honestly, I’m a Corraleno. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. It’s OK, we can stay where we are.”
Other members of the committee shared their thoughts, though Ken Martinez said his list was too long to go over. He noted the designs showed about 70% of the building was dedicated to the theater and backstage prep areas and wondered if there was more of a need for meeting space.
He also raised a central issue: whether the facility should aim to be a regional venue or one focused on the village. He had concerns about the anchor tenant limiting opportunities for the PTA or elementary students to use. The most important thing was getting community feedback. “We want to make sure we hear from everybody,” he said.
Other committee members said more community input was needed on such questions. It was also mentioned that the recently released community survey distributed by the Comprehensive Planning Committee includes a question asking the level of support for a facility like the one proposed.
John Perea said a survey was done before the gym addition was built and that helped garner community support. “I think we need to go back and do a survey and figure out what we want,” he said.
Sherry Jones offered to help in that area. She self-appointed herself to aggregate the data that’s being collected.
“The nice thing about this is it’s hard data,” she said, adding that capturing the voices in the community would be through a survey.
Jones chimed in on the regional versus local question, saying her preference would give it a better chance to secure funding.
“We should look at regional status only because that allows us to apply for federal, state and country funds. That’s huge. That will help us build this,” she said.
Mayor Jim Fahey helped answer some questions after he showed up midway through the meeting.
An advocate for building the facility, Fahey said the idea for a performing arts-type facility probably originated 25 years ago with Evelyn Losack. It was a “pie in the sky” idea back then, he said, but seemed a little more realistic years later when a local artist brought it up again in 2006.
Fahey said a few years ago, about the time he ran for mayor ,the Jones property just north of the recreation center became available and the city bought it. “It seemed like the perfect place. It was centralized in the village,” he said. And since then, the property has been earmarked for the ACE center, if it were to be built.
The first ad hoc committee did a good job of coming up with a plan, he said, but there were still some loose ends when its term expired in April. That was the reason to form a second committee to finalize a plan.
The mayor acknowledged the village doesn’t currently have the $8 million it will take to build the facility. While he said that will not be funded by bond money, Fahey previously told the Comment funding could come from state or federal sources, as well as private funds.
Fahey later related that he wasn’t really an arts guy, but he recalled that while living in Texas he sent his children to the Warehouse Living Arts Center in Corsicana. They’ve since told him it was the most valuable experience of their lives.
He said he could see a similar facility that could also be used for community meetings, candidate forums and other non-theater related activities.
“If you don’t want it, you think it’s too much money or too big for the village, then we won’t do it. That’s called democracy,” he said.
Not Los Ranchos
The voice of the people was also heard at the meeting, including that of Doug Collins. He said he wasn’t for or against the facility, but he had concerns.
“I have a paranoia because of our sister community – Los Ranchos – with all the problems they’ve had with that three and four-story building on 15 acres on the corner of Fourth Street and Chavez Road,” he said of recently approved mixed-use developments. “That bothers me. I want to make sure as a watchdog in the community we never have anything like that over here.”
Mayor Fahey promised there would be no apartment buildings built in Corrales.
“My wife would kill me… after she did some other things,” he joked.
One man questioned whether things were being done backwards. First, he said, they should know how much money they have to work with. Then, they could determine how it could be best spent.
“Dollars often, bottom line, control what we build, whether it’s regional or local,” he said.
A woman said she was shocked when she first saw the initial design. It was too big, she said, adding that she didn’t think there was a need for fixed seats. An open space that could accommodate dancing would be better,
Another woman said she hoped the facility’s gallery wouldn’t compete with local artists, but promote them. She, too, thought the theater was too large and so was the scope. She said there should be more focus on the “main needs that support building this.”
Increased traffic and congestion often came up during the discussion. So did preserving the rural character of the village.
Searching for that balance
The question also came up whether citizens would be able to vote on whether to build a facility with performing arts. The answer is no. The committee’s purpose is to finalize a design for a proposed facility that it can pass on to the village administration and village council. Any votes regarding the facility or funding it come from the village council.
Regarding developing a survey, resident Greg Polk warned against asking either/or questions. He said the best of intentions can polarize a community.
“I think we need to be doubly careful not to reinforce that polarization and turn this into – inadvertently – a block or white, either/or choice,” he said.
Johnny Martinez closed the meeting by promising to listen to everyone’s input.
“Everybody has a voice here. We respect everybody’s voice; we’re neighbors at the end of the day. So, that’s what we’ll do,” he said. “Everybody’s doing their best to try to get information out there and try to come up with something that works for the village.”
The next meeting of the Multi-Use Facility Committee is set for 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16, in the village council chambers. The public can also view the meeting online through the village’s website, www.corrales-nm.org.