City, Neighborhood Groups Explore Preservation, Improvements for West Side

by Morgan Montalvo

WOAI News

City and community leaders, design experts, and concerned citizens are exploring how best to preserve an aging West Side landmark, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Built in the mid-1980s, the Plaza Guadalupe is a symbolic gateway to the West Side, but over the past three decades has suffered from the elements and vandalism. The open-air pavilion with a combined spectator capacity of 3,000 has hosted a Papal and presidential visits. 

Its construction was part of a neighborhood non-profit organization's efforts to beautify the area around Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, which also benefitted from the group's revitalization initiative.

Last evening, members of the American Institute of Architects' local Latinos in Architecture chapter unveiled their conceptual plans for the facility at a community forum. 

Gabriel Quintero Velasquez with the Avenida Guadalupe Association says renovations to the facility would signal a comeback for the impoverished area and encourage more West Side-owned businesses.

"We also want to improve it for the neighborhood that it is, for the high level of home ownership that exists, for the people that want to stay and don't want to get priced out," says Velasquez, "because you know when you're the poorest nighborhood in the city, it's very easy to get priced out."

"The fear of gentrification is very real. " he says. "We know the city is developing around us; we want to be sure that we're not left behind, that for our neighborhood we are also showing progress." 

District 5 City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales says a series of neighborhoood meetings has resulted in the identification of several short-term priorities, including: fencing to limit after-dark entry; improved access for disabled visitors; and more city-sponsored events. 

Gonzales says a major challenge to renovating the Plaza is its current configuration, only the first-phase of what was planned as a larger complex.

"It explains why there are so many sort of kiosks, and why there are so many spaces that look a little bit out of place because, as I understand it, there was always supposed to be more funding," Gonzales says. 

Longer-term options for the Plaza, Gonzales says, include expansion according to the original design architecture, or a completely new design on the current site. She says renovation or redesign could be funded with a bond proposal. 

Gonzales says while the city, neighborhood groups and Latinos in Architecture Committee continue planning the Plaza's future, its immediate access and safety concerns will be addressed "fairly quickly. 

The funding's available; it's been available for quite some time."

IMAGE: CENTER CITY DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATIONS DEPARTMENT

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