City hopes to amp up use of Civic Plaza

Created: 07/01/2014 9:34 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The City of Albuquerque has been working on ways to revitalize downtown for years, and it looks like their latest effort will take place right outside the doors of city hall.

The city is working on a contract with SMG, which bills itself as a “worldwide entertainment and convention venue management” company that would give SMG management responsibilities over Civic Plaza. SMG already manages the Albuquerque Convention Center, and the city says the extra duties would likely be paid for under the existing fee it pays SMG for its convention center work. The benefit to SMG is that it could market the convention center and civic plaza together, giving event organizers more options and enhancing the overall appeal of Albuquerque. The city says it is close to a deal, but still finishing the contract agreement.

Gilbert Montano, Albuquerque’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer and Chief of Staff for Mayor Richard Berry, says SMG will be tasked with bringing more events to Civic Plaza, and planning original programming for day-to-day use by Albuquerque residents.

“It's one of the most underutilized parks in the city and we think by adding some activity, adding some basketball courts, adding some tables and some events, we really can get people down here enjoying the center of downtown and if they get excited they can walk around downtown,” Montano said. “[SMG]’s day to day business is to generate activity, generate events, generate programs, and we think having them spearhead this, having them incentivize and program this and go out and gather some activity will really invigorate the city.”

Montano says they’d like SMG to help bring in concerts, shows, and vendor events, but they don’t want Civic Plaza to lose its designation as a public space.

“One of the big things we've been telling SMG and the mayor's been very clear is, there are some staple events that happen out here and we want to assure the public the city will be involved with SMG to make sure those events continue to occur,” Montano said.

That means marches, protests and demonstrations that have used Civic Plaza as a home-base will likely be able to continue to do so.

In the past, the city has issued permits for the use of Civic Plaza. Now, interested parties will contact SMG directly, and SMG will make sure they abide by city rules and regulations for use of the space. In the past, Cultural Services managed use of the plaza. Montano says they did a good job, but SMG will have more time and resources to devote to promoting the plaza, and Cultural Services already has enough work to do. No jobs will be lost as a result of the change.

“The expectations will certainly be the same as when the city operated it,” Montano said. “We just hope SMG augments and helps incentivize some other activities and some of the more engaged clients to utilize and promote civic plaza more than it's currently being promoted.”

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