Lydia Gomez was sure she was not dreaming. The accolades heaped upon her mother, Lou Cardenas, were all true and they all came from Longmont’s top political and business leaders.
The 83-year-old also could not deny that her entire family, 50 or so members, all gathered Thursday afternoon to participate in a ground-breaking of a unique mixed use development on the northwest corner of Ninth Avenue and Main Street. The environmentally friendly 12,000-square-foot structure will house both small businesses and apartments and is named to honor her mother, Casa Lou Cardenas.
A part of Gomez still wasn’t sure it was real, however. “I believe it but I also can’t believe it,” Gomez said, as she was surrounded by sons, daughters, grand and great grandchildren of her mother.
“This is all just so wonderful and stunning,” said Gomez, the oldest of Lou Cardenas’s five children.
Cardenas died at age 99 in 2017, leaving behind a legacy of activism that prompted developer Jennifer Peterson to honor Cardenas, one of Longmont’s early Latino activists. “Lou Cardenas was the voice of the Latino community,” Peterson said at Thursday’s ground-breaking.
Gomez said her mother worked the beet fields outside of Longmont, helped raise her family, and worked to improve the lives of local Latinos. She started the first Senior Center in Longmont in 1971. She also volunteered for Meals on Wheels, and advocated for a bus service for seniors in the city.
“She was always going to city council meetings,” Gomez said. “She never seemed to get tired. I am so proud of my mom. She would look around at all of this, and she wouldn’t know what to say.”
The Cardenas family lined up for a family photo during the ceremony, which included food and drink as well as music. Project architect Thomas Moore also outlined the details of Casa Lou Cardenas, which will boost the profile of a traditionally rundown section of Longmont.
“It started out as a smart building and when we brought in Lou’s name it gave the building its soul,” Moore said.
The first floor will house four commercial spaces ranging from 400 square-feet to 1,700 square-feet, according to the Casa Lou Cardenas Longmont website. The second floor will have five two-bedroom, 2.5 bathroom apartments that are between 1,175 to 1,196 square-feet.
The second floor will have one commercial space that is 1,074 square-feet and the third-floor will have one, one-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom apartment that is 1,074 square-feet, according to the website.
Each apartment has a 180 square-foot roof-top patio and there will be a separate 180 square-foot patio for use by the commercial tenants.
Construction is slated to begin next month and should be completed by the fall of 2023, planners said Thursday.
Garcia said Thursday’s ceremony would have made her mother very happy. “She always just wanted to bring people together. And look what has happened with this.”