FARMINGTON — A project intended to better identify downtown Farmington and boost pedestrian traffic recently received state approval and is now headed to city council for its final OK.

The Farmington Metropolitan Redevelopment Area, an organization dedicated to revitalizing older areas of the city, approved designs for signs that will mark the boundaries of the Art Walk and draw attention to Orchard Park.

DHM Design, a landscape, urban design and planning firm in Durango, Colo., is contracted to design the signs. The contract is for about $29,000, according to Mary Holton, the city's community development director.

"To me, it's like putting out the welcome mat," MRA Board Member Linda Barbeau said.

A downtown Farmington sign is seen on Jan. 23 along South Allen Avenue and West Main Street in Farmington.
A downtown Farmington sign is seen on Jan. 23 along South Allen Avenue and West Main Street in Farmington. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

The MRA chose a cultural theme for the signs from two other options — historic and iconic. The group hosted two public meetings in late January to solicit input.

The cultural theme will reflect the community by incorporating in the signs local materials — sandstone for the desert, rusted girders for industries and zigzagging curves for the three rivers. It is a "unifying theme," Barbeau said.

"We're trying to do something that will represent the range of Farmington," she said.

An artist's drawing shows the signs as tall girders, with a sandstone foundation and lights reaching out from the top.

The project also includes placing a fingerpost sign in Orchard Park, which will list nearby attractions, such as the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness or Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Senior City Planner Cindy Lopez said the park is "Farmington's compass," as it marks the center of the city.

Millions of people have their photographs taken at the Four Corners Monument, Barbeau said. The fingerpost could be a similar icon, she said.

"We do feel like we are the Four Corners," she said.

Lopez said the city's 2002 comprehensive plan and 2006 MRA plan identified the signs as a way to revitalize downtown.

The project is expected to carry a $135,000 price tag. Because the MRA received $60,000 in a federal Community Development Block Grant in 2010, state oversight of the project is necessary, Lopez said. The New Mexico Historic Preservation Division approved the project on Friday.

City council also authorized $75,000 in fiscal year 2013 for the project, and Lopez hopes to have the project before council on April 8 for final approval.

When construction will begin is uncertain, but late August is the deadline for the construction drawings, she said.

Barbeau has lived in Farmington for more than 20 years, and the community seems like it has no "front door," she said. Most of the city's visitors zip through on its major roads, she said. Every entrance into the city seems tailored for the service industry, she said.

"We're not just an industrial town," she said. "We have a lot more to offer."

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.