Community members saw a final design for Plaza Guadalupe’s improvements Thursday at El Progreso Hall.
The design process started after Avenida Guadalupe Association, the nonprofit that built and maintains the Westside plaza, put a chain-link fence around it in 2016, citing after-hours safety concerns such as drug use and people sleeping in the playground. Some residents in the area have criticized the fence, saying it closes off a public space.
Latinos in Architecture (LIA) presented two potential designs to community members in December. Avenida Guadalupe and various City offices – including Center City Development Operations (CCDO) and the Office of Historic Preservation – drew up a third and final concept in consultation with LIA.
The current design would put wrought-iron fencing around the playground and close off all but one entry point on El Paso Street and one on Guadalupe Street. The parking lot on Kicaster Alley would have a gated entry for private event purposes.
The fencing would create two clear entrance and exit points on El Paso Street and Guadalupe Street, which helps with security, Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) said.
Security was one of the main concerns community members had brought to multiple meetings hosted about Plaza Guadalupe’s future. The final conceptual design addresses that, while allowing people to access the plaza whenever they want, CCDO Assistant Director Veronica Garcia said.
“It maintains access to the plaza for everyone at all times except for private events, but it also allows for security of the space,” she said.
There are no current plans to add more police officers to the area, Gonzales said. But police officers have attended each public meeting and are listening to concerns, Garcia added.
“They’re hearing from people in the community and neighbors saying, ‘Yes, we want to see our officers in the area in a friendly way,’” she said.
Avenida Guadalupe Association has put in additional lighting around the plaza, which has improved safety, Gonzales said.
The association has about $300,000 to put toward plaza improvements, part of a community development block grant the nonprofit received more than a year ago. The money will fund fencing and landscape improvements and make bathroom entrances ADA-accessible. If there is funding left, putting up a shade structure over the plaza’s amphitheater is next on the priority list, Gonzales said.
“I’m hopeful there’s money left over for the shade structure,” she said. “It’s really hot much of the year and makes the space unusable for most of the time.”
There is also $100,000 allocated for programming at Plaza Guadalupe in the City’s 2019 budget; about $23,000 of that has already been spent on events at the plaza. Garcia said the community expressed a desire for more educational, culture and arts, entertainment, and health and wellness events in the plaza.
A few meeting attendees voiced their concern over the existence of any fencing at the plaza.
“Leave our spaces open,” said Amelia Valdez, who serves as president of the Historic Westside Residents Association. “[Two entrances] is not enough because that’s only telling people you can only go this way … Let’s not control anything. Let people use it freely.”
Garcia assured community members that their feedback had been taken into account in the design. Public comment cards were handed out at the end of the meeting.
“This is your plaza,” she told community members Thursday. “We’re all trying to work together to make this a vibrant public space.”
Because Plaza Guadalupe is City-owned property, the final design must be approved by the Historic and Design Review Commission. The design is scheduled to go before the commission next month. Public feedback will be included with the application that goes to the review commission.
If the the process goes smoothly, construction can be finished as early as end of the summer, Garcia said.