AZTEC — If funding can be secured, North Main Avenue will reach another half mile and connect with a pedestrian trail that will wind to the Aztec Ruins National Monument.

During a work session Tuesday, Aztec City Commissioners saw design plans that depicted a pedestrian-friendly plaza and marketplace where North Main Avenue currently ends and opens to fields and cottonwood trees.

DHM Design, an architecture firm in Durango, Colo., is overseeing design plans for the North Main Avenue Corridor project.

On Tuesday, Craig Stoffel, lead designer at the firm, showed commissioners the latest design plans his team has developed. The design evolved from three public meetings that solicited input from citizens about the look and feel of the project. The first meeting was in August, and the last one was earlier this month.

"A lot of the input focused on bringing in the riparian corridor to explore the fall colors, the look and feel of the (Animas) River, while also echoing motifs of the Aztec Ruins and Old Spanish Trail," Stoffel said. "At the last meeting, we tried to show these themes and details in the design's overall look and effect. People seemed really happy with the overall concept."

Among those pleased with the look of the extension plans were city commissioners.

Commissioner Katee McClure attended all three public meetings and said she likes the project.

"I love what they have come up with — impressed, really — given all the differing views and priorities by the public at the earlier meetings," McClure said. "The fact that the city is capitalizing on the fact that just a trail away you can take a leisurely walk, take a sack lunch and visit the Ruins is so cool. And the plaza area, places for live music and for people to stroll around, it's like a whole new sub-community. It's going to be gorgeous."

The North Main Avenue project includes a plaza evocative of the tri-wall structures at the Aztec Ruins and a trailhead gateway that is designed to resemble the T-shaped Puebloan doorways there. A marketplace walkway features a Navajo rug design and shade shelters that resemble those along the Ruins' southeast grounds will be cedar-topped.

The corridor will allow for pedestrian, bicycle and car traffic, and it includes a transit stop on the south end before a single-lane, two-way road leads to the trailhead.

Last year, the city received a Federal Transit Administration grant for $319,900 to be used for the transit stop and trail. So far, the city has budgeted and partially spent $200,000 on the project. That money has gone to Durango, Colo., firm Russell Engineering for preliminary engineering, design meetings and environmental documents, said Kathy Lamb, finance director for the city.

Officials say the budget for the entire project will become clearer as engineers provide cost estimates for construction, and commissioners approve final plans later this spring.

City Manager Joshua Ray believes the project could be complete in 2016.

"This is the model for how the city will handle public projects. This is the way — to allow our citizens to have a voice throughout the process," Ray said. "The way we did this is phenomenal. North Main is going to be the pride of the city, a corridor that we gather and socialize in and be small-town USA."

He said the city is still looking to secure additional grants.

"It's going to take a lot of work to figure it out," Ray said. "This project has potential to show the perfect private-public partnership."

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.