The city’s Center City Development and Operations (CCDO) department, District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales and the local chapter of Latinos in Architecture unveiled an updated concept plan for Plaza Guadalupe to an audience of about 60 people Thursday night at El Progreso Hall on the near West Side, across from the plaza.
The new concept plan features what was described as a compromise of having partial fencing on certain areas of the plaza while having a five-foot fence surrounding the playground area next to El Paso Street.
For months, some neighbors and advocacy groups have fought to remove a chain-link that was erected in 2016 by the Avenida Guadalupe Association, the nonprofit that leases the plaza from the city. The nonprofit put up the fence as a deterrent against criminal activity, mainly drug use, they said. The advocates argued the fence painted the West Side community as criminals. Last year, when the public meetings began, the city opened the plaza for the hours of 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.
The five-foot fence is planned on being constructed out of wrought iron and would be placed on top of the three-foot concrete barrier already in place. The fence area facing El Paso is proposed to act as a communal wall to showcase the art and talent within the neighborhood.
In the concept plan, fencing would also enclose the playground area (a proposal Councilwoman Gonzales has been adamant about adding) and the parking lot facing El Paso. A fence or landscape element would be added behind the stage facing Kicaster Alley, and in the section between the Margarita Huantes Learning Center and the plaza entryway on Guadalupe Street. There is no fence that completely surrounds the plaza and both entryways will remain open to allow the plaza to be accessible 24/7.
The concept of a partial fence was met with mixed reviews.
“I do not like that there is still fencing around the plaza,” said Mary Ann Hernandez, 63.
She and other community members want Guadalupe Plaza to be more open and welcoming like all the other plazas.
Landscaping work has already begun, while other phases await approval.
The $300,000 in funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant program that Avenida Guadalupe has access to—money that has been aside for over a year—would pay for the first phase.
“I like the fence,” said Maria Tijerina, 72. “It might be a good idea to have a gate that closes for private events—for safety and security.”
She also stated that the improvements on accessibility in the plaza were good to see.
The plans will now go to the Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) in April for final approval in order for the restoration and necessary construction can begin.
If the plan gets approved in April, construction (fencing, landscaping, flatwork) can begin as soon as May and end in September, officials said.
As for security, regular police patrols will continue, and more lighting is said to be one of the improvements.
Upgrades are planned to be made to better comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, the plan calls for a shade structure to be built over the main plaza area, but will only happen if there is additional money.
Some community members are still very unhappy with the plans for the plaza and wish that there would be no fence at all, while others were content with the outcome.
“The plaza wasn’t being used as intended,” said Gonzales told media members before the meeting. “It needed a refresher.”
Renderings have been made available online on the CCDO website.