July 18--Soon, very soon, the Dairy Queen in Pojoaque will have more competition as a place to make a pit stop for a quick bite and ice cream. Just up the frontage road, there's a building going up. On the fence, a sign states that McDonald's is hiring, meaning another anywhere USA joint is settling down in the Pojoaque Valley.
Across the way is stark contrast -- the Pojoaque Pueblo's fascinating Poeh Museum and Cultural Center, where visitors can learn more about the Pueblo people, all in a building made (we would wager) with nary a drop of faux adobe. By contrast, when the still-under-construction McDonald's is done, the thin walls (we would wager) will be plastered the ubiquitous brown we see all over Northern New Mexico. Not quite adobe, but something to make the franchise blend in.
And there's the dilemma for our neighbors to the north, the same one Santa Fe faces with every new bit of construction. How to maintain the beauty and authenticity of our corner of the world without driving away, completely, the new businesses and franchises that want to operate here. At the Poeh, visitors will find the authentic and the unique. Not so nearby.
At a McDonald's, there is little special for the visitor, except perhaps, for green chile on a burger. (When the business does open, we trust that lighting will not overwhelm the night skies. Glaring lights and the country are a bad mix.) As for locals, who might like the convenience of their own McDonald's -- not having to drive to Santa Fe or EspaÑola is welcome -- too much fast food is the last temptation most of us need.
Pojoaque, split by the highway, has always been challenged as it builds commerce and the necessary amenities not for visitors, but for the people who live there. With a bank, a grocery store and a drug store, the basics of life are close at hand.
Now, planners at Pojoaque Pueblo should begin pondering the business district's impact in total. Can the collection of enterprises become more of a real town. How does the McDonald's fit in with Poeh Center?
What about the shopping mall and the gas stations? Besides the farmers market on Wednesdays, do stores offer enough fresh vegetables and fruits to combat the lure of ice cream and french fries so close at hand? We think additional sidewalks and landscaping would be one place to start building community. Is there a unifying motif to offer the collection of shops, liquor stores, bars and gas stations more of a feeling of community? And, as we always keep in mind in Northern New Mexico, what do we have to offer visitors that makes us worth a stop?
Pojoaque, without thoughtful planning, will remain more of a place to drive through rather than its own, worthwhile destination. Given the effort that went into building the Poeh Center, that would be an opportunity lost.
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