North 90 Project concepts presented


Photos by Patrick Shea Center Town Manager Brian Lujan introduced presenters from MASS Design via ZOOM on Feb. 7 to debrief trustees, planning commission members, and town residents with the results of their housing and development concepts. MASS Design representatives met with Center Town Board trustees, planning commission members, and town residents via ZOOM on Feb. 7 to present concepts for developing the North 90 project.

CENTER — In October, representatives from MASS Design spent the better part of a week listening to students, residents, and officials in Center to better understand what housing could look like in the 90 acres of town-owned land ready for development.

Center acquired 90 acres north of town more than a decade ago, and in 2018 when Lujan took the town manager position, the North 90 Project started to take shape.

The acreage is flat and undeveloped, a blank canvas and a need for expensive paint. Competing for grant money, Lujan and the trustees committed to the MASS Design study and gained an advantage by having architectural drawings and plans to submit with the proposal. Although the grant money may not be awarded until April, the concepts have already helped push the project forward.

The planning commission group is expanding, and members raised concerns and questions during the presentation. Trustees and community members identified the Catch-22 between housing and employment. Without jobs, new residents may not move to Center. Without housing, new businesses may not move to Center either.

Lujan framed the approach to the dilemma like throwing a dart at a dart board. The town of Center is the bullseye. If any project development cannot be sustained by the Center community at the core, it will fail. If each phase of the project stays within the bullseye, the bullseye itself could expand to relieve housing pressures in other San Luis Valley communities. Saguache renters who work in Alamosa, for example, would consider moving to Center for affordable housing closer to work.