By Janellie Berlanga, Giovanni Salinas, Danny Zaragoza, Marco Tijerina and Sergio Loera
“Small”, “congested” and “boring” are the top three terms used by the youth of Laredo to describe their city as according to the Plan Viva Laredo team as the group continues to work on including feedback from Laredoans of all ages in the plan’s development.
Laredo’s charter requires a comprehensive plan that pushes it forward and enables growth and stability. However, our current plan dates back to 1991 and clearly required a makeover, which is why the city of Laredo selected a team of professionals that seek to turn this city into the jewel of South Texas, as it should be as one of the main border cities between the United States and Mexico.
The comprehensive plan, Viva Laredo, is currently undergoing further development while projects, such as the new outlet mall, are already in the works and are contributing to Laredo’s dream design. As it is we are already seeing a growth in events and their attendance in central Laredo. New social activities such as the Laredo Border Slam, Hecho-a-Mano bazaars, and El Centro De Laredo’s Farmer’s Market allow for a surge in the quality of life for Laredoans from different areas.
Ryan Duncan, a student who participates in downtown events, such as Laredo Border Slam, said that he “noticed how much downtown has been thriving recently in events that are becoming so much more popular with the youth. I can’t help but think that the Viva Laredo plan has to be playing a big part in it.” Duncan makes an important observation when he points out the youth of Laredo; they will be the prime beneficiaries of Plan Viva Laredo.
To determine how much input young adults have contributed to Plan Viva Laredo, we conducted a survey on the TAMIU Student Network Facebook page, which has 8,787 members. Surprisingly, the poll reached a turnout of 130 students that participated. Out of those, 30 students did not take the poll seriously and 5 admitted that they did not care; however, the other 95 students did show interest in the poll. The results revealed that only 19 students were aware of the comprehensive plan and the remaining 76 were not—meaning that only one out of every 4 students that participated knew about the plan.
One TAMIU student, Oscar Martinez, was well versed with the plan. He mentioned he first heard about the plan at a Viva Laredo meeting held in South Laredo. Martinez had concerns about the plan at first because it was based off other cities with different economic situations. “We needed to make sure the plan was not just hopes and dreams, but hopes and dreams that were feasible,” said Martinez about the meeting he attended in South Laredo. He still believes that the plan will be achievable after a balanced amount of input from Laredoans. Concerned citizens such as Martinez can voice their thoughts and opinions thanks to town hall meetings held by the Plan Viva Laredo team around the city. The next stage in the plan is a presentation of the first rough draft which is expected to be done by April 2017.
When asked what some of the more desired aspects of the plan were, architect Mario Peña, of Hickey Peña Architects, said that more varied modes of transportation were a big thing, as well as the affordability of the city, and more job opportunities. These popular requests are what could really move the city forward by keeping the young adults in Laredo as they transition from college into the workforce to start building their careers. The comprehensive plan continues to gather feedback and although it can move on with what it already has, the architects and designers want the input from all Laredoans, especially the younger crowd. Peña said the town hall meetings had a good turnout, but felt they lacked input from younger Laredoans, who will be the ones experiencing result of the comprehensive plan. According to Peña, “the end goal ultimately is to make sure the Laredo of the future is the Laredo its citizens want it to become.” This can only be achieved if every citizen gets involved and actively works toward bettering the future of our city.
On Friday December 2nd 2016, Plan Viva Laredo held a meeting at the TAMIU Student Center. Members of the Freshman Leadership Organization and Leadership TAMIU gathered to give insight for the comprehensive plan’s team. They were asked to review a map of the area surrounding TAMIU and present ideas that would improve their quality of life. Jennifer Lopez said that South Laredo is being forgotten and would like to see “more hospitals in South Laredo.” TAMIU Freshman Carlos Ariaz says the meeting would help “grab different opinions from people outside of Laredo.” The students agreed that if the comprehensive plan is completed, they would be more willing to stay in Laredo after their studies.
Laredoans can still contribute to the plan by leaving feedback through the Plan Viva Laredo’s website www.vivalaredo.org. The data and opinions gathered at the town hall meetings can also be found on the plan’s website.