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EHEI Award: Enhancing the Environment for Human Activities

The Roma Visitors Center and Plaza Project

Roma, TX

Located midway between Laredo and Brownsville, Roma is one of the most outstanding cultural resources of the US/Mexico borderlands. Roma is centered around a magnificent plaza overlooking the sandstone bluffs of the Rio Grande. This space is defined by a collection of structures reflect the cultural continuity of the Texas/Mexico borderlands in their design, materials and construction techniques. It is for this reason that Roma was designated by the US Department of the Interior in 1993 as a National Historic Landmark District.

Photo of the Plaza before reconstruction

Building on an earlier planning and building stabilization phase, this current and pivotal phase of the project rehabilitated the upper portion of the plaza and refurbished the exterior and interior of several historic buildings to make them, publicly accessible for heritage interpretation. After removing numerous obstructions that were part of the 1976 mall design, the plaza was remodeled to sensitively re-introduce vehicular traffic through a one-way circular loop with diagonal parking along it's center. It was then surfaced with concrete in a rock salt finish to recall the texture and color of the caliche that originally covered it. This civic space is delineated, in turn, by a series of wide sidewalks and historic elevated banquetas, or brick walkways, that allow for extensive pedestrian circulation. The project has recaptured the plaza as the heart of the city as it is now the venue for farmers' market, concerts and religious processions. Interiors were carefully refurbished, including remnants of late 19th century decorative plaster that showcase the high level of craftsmanship in the border during that period

Improving Human Activities:
The Roma Visitors Center and Plaza Project integrates vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the plaza. The redesigned plaza restricts parked vehicles to its center, which generously adds space along the sides for pedestrian use. The project makes accessible to residents and to visitors key buildings of the historic district so they may experience, first hand, the cultural, architectural, and natural heritage of this community and the greater border region. It clearly reinstates the plaza to its rightful place as the focal point of the community.

Photo of the Plaza after reconstruction

Transportation Decision Making:
The project is an outstanding example of context-sensitive design. It can be emulated by other historic preservation projects with transportation components that seek a tested, validated strategy and planning process for community revitalization. The following strategies were employed:

Updated: 07/11/2012
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