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Posted September 23, 2014

APS Critical to Downtown Revitalization

Nine neighborhood schools part of the master plan

APS Board of Education President, Dr. Analee Maestas, and Kizito Wijenje review the proposed Downtown Revitalization plan outside of PNM's Pop-Up Pavillion at the STEMulius Center.

There’s been talk for decades now of revitalizing Downtown Albuquerque, but to date few attempts have shown much promise. On Monday, Sept. 22, a busload of people got a glimpse of the downtown area's potential, a future in which Albuquerque Public Schools plays an important role. 

“A strong, central public education system is critical to the success of the urban core we are working to recreate here," said David Silverman of the Geltmore Group Developer and an APS alum.

Nine schools in the community targeted for a facelift belong to APS.

During the two-hour bus tour, concerned citizens, business owners, school leaders and developers had the opportunity to see first-hand exactly what’s happening downtown. They also learned about  challenges and immediate plans  to turn things around.

Silverman said APS is critical to the efforts. “Our goal is to not only to create a sustainable urban center for people of all ages to want to live and work, but to provide them all the necessary infrastructure to keep them here. We are working to re-energize and build a strong sense of community here, and its core, public education is the root of that.”

APS has been working hand-in-hand with the City of Albuquerque, Central New Mexico Community College and other key community partners to ensure that schools support the population growth, community demand and expectations should there be an influx of new residents as anticipated.

“In a time of tight budgets, public institutions are trying to leverage taxpayer dollars to provide services to the public in the most cost effective, efficient and collaborative means we can,” said Kizito Wijenje, who oversees the plans for funding and building APS schools.

Wijenje added that one of the long term goals in continuing to collaborate on this project is a future partnership with APS and the City of Albuquerque transit department to secure safe, dependable and affordable mass transit for students attending schools in the downtown area.

All agree this area has more to offer than most may realize. Washington Middle School for example has one of the city’s best fine arts and creative video programs. Longfellow and Coronado Elementary schools have outstanding bilingual programs.

The workshop included a guided tour of CNM’s new STEMulus Center, a site visit to PNM and CNM’s Pop-Up Pavilion at The Galleria on First Street, and an overview of work planned to build a stronger education and entrepreneurial-friendly community.

“You take a tour like this and it’s really uplifting,” said Albuquerque city Councilor Isaac Benton, who represents the downtown area. “If you look at other cities with similar downtown revitalization plans, we are really ahead of the game by integration our public school system into the initial and critical planning stages of this project.”

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