Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lack of Color and Proposals, Proposals

Currently, there is site work occurring all over downtown with Silver Lofts Phase II, the Anasazi and BelVedere simultaneously under construction. That's 126 units that will become available starting next fall or so. I wish I could provide more photos but I am without a camera. I'm eyeing the Canon SD700 IS and SD800 IS. If anyone has any recommendations, let me know. Anyways, I count a total of 742 units either completed or under construction in or near downtown, the furthest being the Huning Castle Apartments on Central and Laguna?, I believe. Not bad, but from information I've read, it takes about 3,000 or so residents before retailers begin to give a serious look to an area. The only projects in the pipeline that have been unofficially announced are Jonathan Rose's 250+ units near the Alvarado Transportation Center (ATC) and Infill Solution's Silver Lofts Phase III development with approximately 60 or so units. Normally, I would insert something about how UNM should build housing for 1,000 students downtown as well as locate an institute or something. But for now, perhaps, they should just worry about getting a president.

Wichita's new arena

Tulsa new arena

In other good news, proposals have been made to the city concerning the new arena, two of which contained 420+ room hotels as part of the development. One proposal even specified a 22-story tower. That's a skyscraper in my book! With 12-foot floors, that translates into a 264 foot building. Add some parking to the structure and large ceilings in the first two floors with retail and such, we could be talking about the city's second 300 foot building. I'm trying to contain my enthusiasm. The reports also specified that Hilton and Westin were named for the developments. Westin would be a major land for the city as its reputation is quite prestigious, usually locating in large cities or major resorts. The third proposal was said to be lacking a hotel because the developer did not believe in a need for any hotel rooms near downtown. I have to question the motivation, however, seeing as at least one study has been completed that stated the city needs more hotel rooms in the city center in order to attract conventions that we have no chance of landing due to our inability to host. Currently, we have less than 1,000 hotel rooms in the city center. This magic number is holding us back. I say toss out their proposal and give us a new skyscraper!

According to the Business Weekly, a new developer is looking to spend money in Albuquerque in a big way. His last name is Barrenchea and, yes, he's from California. His vision is for buildings up to 4 stories tall in Upper Nob Hill in several buildings with a total of 181 units plus ground floor retail along Central Ave. I already like this guy. He is also talking about adding 200 units to the Sawmill development near Old Town. All that new housing is bound to increase activity along Mountain and in Old Town. I'm curious to know how business is going in Old Town ever since they extended hours into the evenings and allowed alcohol to be served with meals. Alas, I have a feeling we'll begin to hear more Mr. Barrenchea soon.

And last but not least, a survey was completed concerning the perception of downtown. The number one reason why people never visit is because "there is nothing to do." But on the bright note, the survey also revealed that "safety" is down to #5 as the biggest reason to avoid downtown. Guess there's only one thing to do: build that arena! More people = safety and arena = events.

For 2007: Here's hoping for that arena, streetcar, 1,000 housing units, and a 1,000 new jobs for our downtown. (That arena and hotel, alone, would create a couple hundred jobs and a quarter billion dollars in construction)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

UNM neighborhoods

I am switching gears from mass transportation and going back to UNM. I believe the state and city have come to understand the importance of the universities to their regions. Tech transfer is something that TVC has been pushing for about a decade now. This is all great, we even have a Science and Technology Park near the Eubank gate to Sandia Laboratories as a shining example of those efforts. However, once again, I go back to the neighborhoods around UNM. Even with some of the city's most expensive homes per square foot in the city, the university still maintains a moat-like boundary around itself as though to separate itself.

Attending a meeting for the "Great Streets" initiative last evening, someone made a very valid comment; why had the city paid HDR great sums of money to create such a plan? Does the city not believe that our highly-touted School of Architecture has the knowledge to get the job done? Is this not the exact type of project the students in the Community and Regional Planning program would love to gain experience in? Furthermore, what about the city planners? Are they too busy catching up with permitting?

Setting an example, once again an out of state school has stepped up its effort to enhance the environment of its surrounding neighborhoods. Here is an excerpt from "The Planning Report":

"When President Sample arrived 14 years ago he said that he wanted USC to be a leader in its local community. And, while he talks about Los Angeles and the Southern California region, he specifically wanted USC to become a good, responsible neighbor for residential communities around our University Park campus and our Health Sciences campus.

He drew an imaginary circle that encompasses the neighborhoods in about a seven to ten block radius and said that USC would focus its resources and its work within this area. He wanted to embark on initiatives that would increase the educational attainment of the children in the area, help provide employment for the adults in the area, and increase the safety of children going to and from their schools, parks, etc.

We’re also going to support local and minority businesses and help them grow and thrive as entrepreneurs. We work every day on these initiatives to make the neighborhood and therefore the university even greater."

All I can say is I'm envious. It doesn't take anything extraordinary, just collaboration.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Why Not a Streetcar?

It appears that the two most popular arguments for not supporting this project are a) the city never gave the people an option, and b) it won't make money. First of all, I can't argue with the first except to say that we all knew it was coming when we re-elected the mayor, but it also doesn't mean that it is a bad idea. The second argument, well, that is why it is a public investment and not a privatized industry. If it made money, investors would come to together to build them and make money from the users. But the fact remains, cities do not build them to make money, they build them to increase connectibility to create that which drives our city: commerce! How many times has someone complained "but there is not parking downtown", or "our streets are so overcrowded", etc. This is why you build these things, to continue the movement goods and ideas.

I've decided I'm going to state all my pros and cons.

- connectivity: between the streetcar and RailRunner, we'll have connected approximately 30% of the metro areas jobs including two major job centers, downtown and north I-25.

- Transit options: The ability to leave your car at home. A person in far reaches of the metro can hop a train and get to work, the airport, a movie, food, a conference, etc.

- Pollution: The streetcar runs on electricity, saving our air quality over our densist population center. Rapid Ride and the 66 bus routes serve something like 7,000 people daily on this route. That's a lot of diesel. The perception that our bus system is always empty does not apply along Central Avenue.

- Sustainability: People who live in inner-city housing use significantly less natural resources than those living in new suburbs do to their ability to drive less, not requiring utility and street extensions, etc. Encouraging such is to everyone's advantage.

- Redevelopment potential: A city cannot continue to acquire revenue only by extending its boundaries and sprawling. Reinvestment is the key to any healthy city. The Streetcar is a catalyst for renewal, proven in every city it has been done in.

- Economic development: Who wants to live in a large city that only contains one type of development? The key is variety. Albuquerque cannot continue to only provide strip malls and single family housing units. Nearly 33% of citizens would prefer to live in apartments, lofts, condos, flats, etc. And those 33% make up a great deal of the metro areas productivity. See studies.

- Lower and middle class assistance: The ability to not spend thousands of dollars a year on vehicle expenses becomes an option when mass transportation exists.

- A new beginning: This project becomes the backbone for a more city-wide approach to transportation for the future as we surpass a million citizens and become a traffic mess like Austin, Nashville, Raleigh, etc.

Plan now!!

Vote Yes!!

The cons: The city will pay for it, just as they pay for bus service, museums, the zoo, schools, and most importantly, roads: roads in every quadrant of our city.

We're all in this together. Just because we don't use something does not mean it does not serve a purpose. Expand your horizon people.

Mood: frustrated >:-|

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Streetcar and Mass Transportation

Alright, I said I'd try not to rant but I just cannot help it. There is a vocal group of citizens attempting to put an end to the streetcar project that just gained support from 6 of the 9 city councilors. I understand that these people probably value some opposing qualities of Albuquerque to myself. But my problem comes from these same people opposing anything that would propel the city from its sometimes frumpy image of being a smaller mid-size city that represents all that is associated with the term "sunbelt." This same group believes that everything that is important to them lies within a one mile radius of their home. Do these individuals understand that by the time this project would be built that our metro will be nearly one million citizens strong? Do they understand the value of open space or sustainability? I would put money to argue that some of these same individuals also cry about our sprawling city. There is no winning with too many of these people. Unfortunately, I have to blame our administration for not providing the citizens with enough information about why this kind of project is exactly what we need for the health of our growing city in the future. I could go on and on but I'm going to watch the story unfold. I just hope that I leave for grad school knowing that when I return to Albuquerque, the citizens will have chosen to embrace the reality of their city and it's potential in the future.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Copper Squares and ABQ Uptown thoughts

Just as the Anasazi project is getting underway, an announcement is made about another residential dvelopment just one block away. Copper Square is a 52 (don't quote me on this but I believe it's close) unit conversion of office space into residential. Their published rendering does not appear to contain any retail but hopefully it gets included. No word on when they expect to start construction but still a good sign for the continuing renewel of the core.

ABQ Uptown:

A fuzzy map

Apple store, Albuquerque, NM as of October 22nd

5 miles east, ABQ Uptown will finally hold its grand opening on Wednesday. Last weekend I had to stop by to see the progress on the Apple store, grab a cup of joe, and see what the hype was all about. From a planning standpoint, I'm not sure what good I see in it. They did manage to attract a new level of retail stores to the city and for that I'm not disappointed. But, I really think they could have added a better mix of coffee shops, bookstores and restaurants to maintain a livelier streetscape scene. So far there appears to be no sidewalk seating aside from Starbucks. The lack of integrated housing and office space in the project really leaves a lot to be desired. I think it was a great opportunity that was thrown out the window due to a narrow focus on high rental prices. There is no gathering spaces aside from fountain square which is a very small spot between buildings. The whole area is still mostly parking lots. Oh well, perhaps it will work in favor of Nob Hill and downtown where other retailers might perhaps look for more organic and unique spaces.

Here's an old drawing of the original proposal/schematic. Like night and day.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Creative Class

Speaking of creative class, I am sure that everyone has heard something about Richard Florida's ranking Albuquerque as the 8th most "creative city" in this fair country? That's a stat that is hard to find in the news. National news prefers to publish the rankings for cities greater than 1 million people. ABQ fell into the second tier cities with a #1 ranking. But when push came to shove, statistically, our ABQ was #8, overall. Only the San Francisco, Austin, Seattle and the rest of the usual suspects came in above us.

Again, what do those cities have that we don't you ask? A highly regarded university that is an institution their very own in-state students aspire to be accepted for admission to along with students from across the country. But I digress. What I'm getting at here is an article published in the Journal a few weeks ago, written by Autumn Grey, discussing the latest trend in design firms setting up shop in our slowly resurrecting downtown. The article highlights two companies, one that has expanded from Austin, and other that has expanded out of New York City.

Searching through news articles, I also stumbled upon a few that have hail an education center of higher learning that the city needs to recognize as they are putting out award winning work with the likes of our countries elite universities. Yet, this news goes by unrecognized, opting instead for shock and horror stories. The Art Center Design College is annually winning awards for it's cutting edge marketing. According to the colleges website, there are nearly 300 students enrolled in their Albuquerque campus, the main campus being in Tucson. Now here's a crazy idea, what if the powers that be in our downtown work to attract this little gem of an institution to our little design-center-in-the-making: DOWNTOWN. We would have several, excellent design companies and an institution pumping out high quality workers for these companies all together in an area where ideas could flow freely like only a critical mass can achieve. Is that not the goal of our economic development organizations? Plus, it would be nice to add another 300 young creative minds to the daily bustle in and around downtown.

Going with the theme of downtown jobs, a Commuter Rail Status Report was published a couple months ago analyzing the affects the train may incur on our job centers throughout the region. I found a few interesting numbers in that report that actually disappointed me. There are, unofficially, 18,900 workers in our Central Business Distict on a given workday. Taking into account the outlying areas that are easily accessible from Alvarado Transportation Center such as UNM, TVI and the hospitals, the number quickly doubles. Still not an impressive number for a metro area zeroing in on a million residents shortly. What is our goal? What do we want to look like? I see efforts to attract jobs, jobs, and more jobs of all types to the area. I've seen us implement commuter rail, and now we're planning for a streetcar. But what's the connection? Where are we going? It all seems so haphazard. Wake up Albuquerque! We need a unified goal. 30,000 jobs in the CBD by 2010? That's a start. 100 more miles of bike lanes? Yes. We need goals and we need leaders to set us in a direction we can all work toward.

And speaking of bike lanes, Dwell Magazine has a nice article highlighting our popular biking scene. I highly recommend everyone to take a look. Our city has a cool, edgy look when photographed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

ABQ Streetcar and NIMBY

Tonight was the second meeting held by the city to provide the public with information about the project and allow feedback. The meeting was held in Nob Hill and thus attracted it's many varied and vocal individuals including Don Shrader, Councilor Heinrich, Greg Payne and a slew of city officials and HDR employees.

Sadly this post focuses mostly on the negative because of what the vocal minority in the crowd decided to spew when given the opportunity to comment. One lady asked why we should support a transit system that uses electricity from a utility company that uses so much coal. Her goal was point out that this rail technology did not promote green living. I wanted to ask her how her rubber soles were made but it was not my turn to speak. Does it not occur to people that taking 150 people out of their cars has far less impact than if they had driven?

Later, a gentleman asked why Albuquerque would look at mass transportation like this because he didn't think the city would ever be big enough to support it. His argument was that we are doomed to be just like Phoenix and it wasn't worth the investment. Another had the argument that development does not follow transportation.

I couldn't contain myself from laughing out loud. First, Phoenix is Phoenix because they invest in freeways rather than mass transportation. Second, every city is shaped by its tranportation network. A city would not exist without such access.

Anyhow, one of the information boards had eight examples of tram (streetcar) models. These three were my favorite, the first being my top choice:

Furthermore, they were soliciting comments on everthing including a couple options for how to run the rail...far side or center layout.

I have to admit, I'm all for the layout that puts the stops in the median. I defend my option by qualifying that such a layout would still allow for bicycles to share the road. The other option promotes bicycle riders to use parallel roads, which in this case, is all neighborhoods. People will argue that biking along central is not safe because too many people drive too fast and there is too much traffic. But the whole point of this project is to promote infill and density, which lends itself to higher pedestrian traffic and slower vehicular traffic overall. The whole scenario works, I'm just not sure there is enough right-of-way to achieve each of those goals.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mass Transportation

The following is a list of the transit systems on which I have been a paying customer.

Got at!

I hope we'll soon have our own chic, original logos to go with our Railrunner and streetcar.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More UNM

I seem to keep returning to the subject, but can someone please tell me why our "flagship" university needs multiple campuses in a metro area with less than 1 million people? A quick drive by the main campus will make apparent to anyone the need for rehabilitation and opportunities for expansion. Why do they need to create two more campuses in which to spread resources that are limited already.

A year ago, the Boston Globe published an article comparing the cities of Worcester, MA and Providence, RI. Both cities are of similar size and have similar make-ups. The one noted, major difference being Providence is the largest city in its respective state whereas Worchester is in Boston's shadow. However, the writer covered an angle that I think perfectly reflects what our city is doing incorrectly, and that is how the universities played a role that directly affected themselves and their hometowns. Brown and Johnson & Whales located facilities and student housing in the heart of Providences' downtown. The city and university worked together with a unified goal, resulting in a vibrant core with a vibe that has attracted investment from the corporate world to invest in their own buildings as well as improving public spaces. The world now looks at Providence as a success story, attracting technology companies, artists, young and old alike. Worcester, until very recently was still tying go get out of first gear. Their officials had poor communication and companies were moving out of downtown to the suburbs. Sound familiar?



Finally, with a change in officials combined with a change in attitude, Worcester finally worked together with the university to build an extension downtown. In turn, new proposals have come out of the private sector including one, alone, that is worth $500 million. That is the combined amount the city of Albuquerque has seen since 1998.

This is only one example of where working together has been the catalyst for major change. I don't understand how we can see these examples everywhere and still let it happen to ourselves. When we look to other cities as our friends and children move away for "more exciting" places with greater opportunities, we have only ourselves to blame.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Coming Up Roses

I know, a cheesy title, but I can't help but feel quite optimistic and almost giddy about the prospects of this city at this time. Today, the Journal published an article about Rose Company's plan for the former Greyhound site and a bordering 1-1/2 acres. They're premlinary ideas are for office, retail, structured parking and 250 residential units all combined in about 200,000 square feet of ground level real estate. I'm no professional but that translates into descent density on a scale that any city would be happy to see inserted into the heart of their CBD. The property is located across the street from the newly constructed interstate coach station on 1st and Silver.

The nearly completed station.

Hopefully, the view will, at minimum, be as vibrant as our example to the north in Denver.

I can't say that I don't like the direction our city is taking, but a look around the country proves that more can be done in the way of strenthening and accelerating such development in positive ways. In the Duke City, all development is being moved along by the private sector while our mayor and city council do their best to balance the needs of the entire city. That sounds positive and obvious, but in a time when petroleum is at a premium and cities are understanding the importance of attracting young, professional, educated co-eds and their families to exciting, mixed-use neighborhoods, our city is seemingly either narrow minded or overworked. In Austin, the public and private sectors have set out to meet goals. Goals of employment, residential units AND transit. They have been so successful in recent times that they are now looking beyond the next couple of years to determine where future density will occur when their last remaining parking lots are filled. A quick look around downtown Albuquerque reveals a similar situation. While our pace of development is not as rapid, any acceleration in our development could potentially result in our city looking toward the future, which it would seem would be an obvious subject of conversation somewhere around city hall. Perhaps we're waiting for the public sector to point us in the right direction and do things for us as they have on our city's westside?

A plot of land just waiting for that dreamed arena.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I just wanted to share a few photos from my excursion on one of the best public projects to happen to our region in recent times.
So far the news is all good regarding the commuter line. Last week the Journal had an article that mentioned the train was handling an average of 4,500 people per day so far. Assuming those numbers are inflated by the newness factor and people riding it for fun, it may still be safe to say that 3,500 people are commuters. That would equates to about 70,000 riders per month on just the stretch from Bernalillo to Albuquerque. It is anticipated that the southern end from Belen will be equally as popular. To say 140,000 per month will ride this train is a tremendous feat, if realized. The potential economic development opportunities from this could be quite tremendous. From Transit Oriented Development around each of the 7 stations (not including the two stations on the reservations due to unknowns), including downtown, to people saving money from not being stuck in traffic, the economic benefits will quickly outway the economic burden of keeping the system up and running. Sure, in ten years, the state may pay $100 million dollars in operation and maintenance, but in ten years we'll likely see 1 Billion dollars in development around the stations because of the investment. That alone is over a 2:1 ratio and is a conservative figure when compared to what other cities are seeing. That figure doesn't even include the payrolls for jobs that will likely be created and attracted to the area in the decade.

I took two more pictures on my excursion that day that really show some of the progress we've seen in the last five years. My how far we've come.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Things UNM

A couple weeks ago I posted an article/rant over at Duke City Fix about how the university and city have failed to work together to create and foster an environment that works in conjunction with the surrounding neighborhoods and the city's plan for urban development that invigorates the so-called "creative-class." An example I use is a lack of urban planning ability and skill along the university's periphery that, in effect, works to attract what the university believes it is fending off...transients. The university could easily build thousands of revenue generating student housing that, if designed correctly, could and would positively affect and create a stronger business presence in the area in the form of restaurants, clothing stores, etc.

Where I also see a great opportunity for benefits on both sides of the street, so-to-speak, deals with the proposed arena that the city is so desperately trying to push through. While I won't give my opinions as to why I believe it is something that our city needs to do, I do want to share an email that I sent to the mayor, governor, UNM president, Downtown Action Team, and Chris Leinberger, regarding the issue, as well as a response I received from Rudy Davalos.


I woke up this morning with the need to express my opinions about the new arena that the City of Albuquerque is proposing to build in the downtown CBD. In a recent article about the project in the Business Weekly, it was stated that the latest proposal was to include mixed uses such as a hotel, condos and retail. I feel as though the viability of the project has just increased two-fold because of this addition to the scope. However, I have a question regarding the size of the arena. I am aware that money has been spent to find out what size arena would be right for our region and it was determined that 10,000 seats would be the most economical. Again, "economical" is the word used to drive a civic project and here is where my problem lies and where I have questions about what possibilities have been considered.

First: Has it been determined what needs to be done and how much it would cost to renovate "The Pit" to bring it up to date? Second: For how long will a 10,000 seat arena be viable and what does that size do for the progression of professional sports in our city and state?

To my understanding, we will not be receiving another NCAA men's basketball tournament game for the next four years - at least. How can UNM and Albuquerque compete with universities and cities across the country who are able to play games and host tournaments in arenas such as the Quest Center in Omaha, Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Wisconsin's Kohl Center in Madison, among may others that have been built or are planned? These arenas provide the amenities that modern collegiate athletics require.

It appears to me that this is a rare, convenient opportunity to combine these interests to meet the demands of modern athletics and entertainment and to put forth the best possible effort as opposed to two "economical" solutions. With the start of the Rail Runner service, ongoing Rapid Ride, and our progressive downtown revitalization, every piece just seems to be in place to make this all happen. The loss of the "The Pit" would be sad, but so has the loss of history's finest sports venues from Chicago Stadium and Commisky Field, to Yankee Stadium (in coming years). I believe that combining this facility for professional uses and UNM to be the greatest solution upon which to build upon. I believe that it would be a greater benefit for the city, state, and university to sit down and have this discussion to determine what action might lead to the greatest solution.

In the meantime, I'll just attempt to picture our new arena with shops and restaurants filled all around downtown and a modern new NFL stadium right off I-25 next to our old palace, The Pit.

Your daydreaming 25 year old, returned to NM from college, waiting for his home to progress, and needing to get back to his work before his boss sees this long-winded email, encouraging progressive solutions, ABQ and NM cheerleader,

Tim Trujillo"

"Dear Tim,

I am responding to your email to President Caldera regarding the Downtown Arena and the PIT. Many people including the Governor, Legislators, UNM Regents and basketball fans across the state of New Mexico would like to see the PIT modernized, so that we can continue hosting NCAA tournaments for men and women and state tournaments for the boys and girls of New Mexico.

The cost would be in the $20 to $25 million dollar range. It would not enlarge the seating for the PIT but it would update the arena by adding new restrooms, food courts and expanding the concourse area, so that it would be more fan friendly. The NCAA favors awarding NCAA Tournaments to those cities that have on campus facilities, like ours.

The PIT is recognized as one of the top 20 sport venues in the world by Sports Illustrated and we should do everything possible to keep the tradition of the PIT in tact. We are not interested in playing UNM Basketball games in a city arena.


Rudy Davalos
Athletic Director
University of New Mexico"

Thanks Rudy. Thank you for all the years of hard work in helping to make the athletics department one of the finest in the conference. However, I beg to differ. First, a look at the locations for NCAA tournaments over the next few years shows a nearly 50-50 split between collegiate and civic arenas. Second, $20-$25 million dollars is the minimum required to bring it up to the bare minimum required for a fan friendly arena that meets todays codes. In the meantime, the cities of Des Moines and Madison, cities that shouldn't even be in our league, can host the event with much more class and style than we can because of memories from two decades ago that we can't let go of. Where is the vision? It's obviously not coming from the regents these days. Everyone knows that to bring the Pit up to snuff would require at least $75 million dollars, and even after then, it would be so different that it will hardly resemble itself with the addition of a new roof, new seating, a hangin scoreboard, and most of all, luxury boxes.

A new arena downtown would, for the same price as a complete renovation of the Pit, give the city a 15,000 seat arena capable of handling events of all sorts, as opposed to only basketball. And it could built to be expandable, so that when our city is ready in ten years or so, can accomodate major league sports. But that's just me.

In the meantime, I'll dream on....

Monday, April 24, 2006

A midrise?

Is anyone as excited as I am for last weeks announcements? First and foremost, the city is making a commitment to implimenting light-rail along Central Ave. from Old Town to Nob Hill with a spur to the airport. Now, I'm slightly disappointed that the planned system, that is most commonly known as a "streetcar," is a slightly less intense version of the RTD in Denver or TRAX in Salt Lake city. However, the slightly sleeker looking streetcar is probably more in context with the setting along Central Avenue.

This is more of what I had in mind for downtown:

It has been shown that the level of development due to civic investment is directly proportional to the amount invested. This type of system should be successful in attracting redevelopment along the route without the intesity that so many people are fearful of (for whatever reason). It really is a great compromise. I personally would much rather see the latter type system.

Next, Vincent Garcia announced his next development downtown, a 7-story mixed-use building called the Anasazi. This building is going to replace the dilapidated building on the southeast corner of 6th and Central with 45 condo's and more retail space. This is the largest project to happen downtown since the Gold Avenue Lofts, yet somehow, I've only seen it mentioned in the Journal. I guess the papers really only like to talk about the drunk kids and shootings downtown. That too bad because this is more indicative of the actual market in downtown. Two days after this project was announced, over 20 of these units has been spoken for. Not so bad for a violence infested, can't-be-as-great-as-Rio Rancho, unsprawled hell. (Was that over the top?)

Last but not least, someone in one of my previous posts posted information from the Emporis website that shows a 20-story building is being planned for the Noon Day Ministries site downtown across from the Old AHS Lofts. Now that is great news. From rumblings I've heard before, I'd bet Rob Dickson has something to do with this plan and I cannot wait for an announcement. It had been know that they were aiming for a midrise in that area, but 20-stories is a highrise in any city. I hope we see some renderings for this project.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Some exciting announcements have made it to the press: First and foremost is the announcement that Jonathan Rose Companies will be leading the development of the current Greyhound bus site and nearby properties when Greyhound moves across the street into the phase II portion of the Alvarado Transportation Station. This company was chosen over Rob Dickson (the developer of the AHS Lofts) and Sheffield Partners (the developers of Aliso Nob Hill), both of whom have shown an ability to get things done. Apparently it will be approximately a year before any designs come forward, but seeing as this is the same company that put together Highlands' Garden Village, I am enthusiastic to see what they come up with.

Nob Hill is coming along nicely with a planned 130 new residential units either under construction or in planning. There is some fuss about the intensity of the Sierra Condominiums project but hopefully the city will agree that there is very little in the way of any "neighborhood" to affect in this vicinity and the project will move through quickly. If I hear any more fuss about solar rights in this area...

Further west on Central, well, about two miles, Infill Solutions has pieced together four acres near old town and plans call for nearly one hundred residences in a mixed-use area called, Country Club Plaza. Unfortunately, I have a feeling affordability will be on the scale of what's considered affordible in, say, Santa Fe.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

ABQ Uptown

I'm not sure if anyone out there actually reads these but I apologize for going the entire month of February without a post. To my credit, I was out of the country for nearly two weeks. In the meantime, two big developments came about. The first being ABQ Uptown's website (finally), and the other being the planned Sierra Condominiums.

First, ABQ Uptown. Should I focus on the good or the bad first? I always complain about others saying things are never good enough as they are, but in this case I think this El Paso company dropped the ball by completely selling out to market interests instead of aiming for a truly progressive development. I'll begin with the facade along Louisiana Blvd. The entire length of it appears to be more like an alley instead of open and inviting. Next, the whole thing so far is one story! Now, what exactly is in the sector plan that allowed for urban development to be such a low density? It's Uptown for Pete's sake. The occupancy rate is at least 90%; why not build these things with offices and condos above the retail as was originally in the renderings? Did the NIMBY's do this? The area will never be viable nor create a critical mass without more housing. Even the proposed 200 units will never get anywhere near creating the necessary street life to make it a true live/work/play neighborhood. Let's call it what it really is: A suburban, feaux urban, upper class to upper-middle class consumer attraction.

Don't get me wrong, however, I'm actually fairly excited for the coming of retailers such as Pottery Barn and possibly Crate'n Barrel. It's businesses like these that act as indicators of how far our market has come. However, I'm a bit jealous that Uptown and the Northeast heights can get all these businesses while our downtown flounders amidst it's best recovery in history. Alas, I've got my fingers and toes crossed for Urban Outfitters to locate downtown.

Market numbers are never challenged apparently. Even with the number of houses selling at seemingly exhorbant prices in the Nob Hill, downtown, and Old Town areas, national chains still shun the area. I don't want to see a development a'la Uptown anywhere near downtown or UNM like they have in Salt Lake City with Gateway, but instead, I believe that the best mix of retail would include national and international stores such as HMV, Gap, Macy's, etc. acting as anchors spread out over an area filled in with local shopes such as Ruby Shoesday, Toad Road and art galleries. That is why it is important to bring density to Edo, downtown, Nob Hill, etc.

On that note, news is out that the developers of Aliso Nob Hill are moving ahead with a phase two to include nearly a dozen urban townhomes across from their highly successful phase I which is nearing completion. Furthermore, they are proposing a new development in the area called, "Sierra Condominiums" that is currently designed at 70 feet tall and with 60 or so units. Now, that's more intense than the Gold Avenue Lofts downtown. I agree that it will stand out like a sore thumb if not designed properly, but I also believe this to be necessary if we are to ever achieve the needed density to support a true form of mass transportation such as light rail. Again, I wish these developers would take a look at downtown but in the end, it all just contributes to Albuquerque one day containing one of America's greatest steets in Central Avenue. One day, it will be walkable and attractive from the Rio Grande and stretching to San Mateo. That would be like Chicago's Michigan Ave. except three times the length and much more funky. Champs-Elysees in Paris, Wenceslas Square in Prague and Freidrichstrasse in Berlin all come to mind when imagining what Central Ave. could one day be at full build out.

Wenceslas Square


Monday, January 30, 2006


There hasn't been too much in the way of development over the holidays. Therefore, I haven't felt compelled nor inspired to write. However, the following has occured: Barelas has successfully chased away the biggest development that has come their way in a half a century in opposing the movie studio proposed for the Railyards. Nob Hill's brilliant, progressive leaders are attempting to chase away "The Place", which is the areas newest best development in years as well: A commission decided that the State Fair Grounds, er Expo New Mexico, is in the correct place and should remain where it is: Goverment leaders are complaining that the Rail Runner is too expensive and ill-planned: And the Journal continues to write about how terrible our downtown is doing.

It's so comforting to see that the leadership in this city and state is truly progressive and determined. It's terrific to know that our political leaders put politics ahead of the good of the people.

Ok, I'm done ranting, and I promise to not do this again for a long time.

On the bright side, despite all the end-of-the-world-like bad tidings that the Journal loves to spew, downtown is seeing several new developments coming on-line. The Bel Vedere is in the process of completing construction documents and is just a couple months away from breaking ground after it took reservations for over half of its 52 units. The former Bank of America building at 3rd and Central is coming along quite nicely with the skybridge going in over the last few weeks. The Carom Club is coming along nicely as is the space below which is causing rumors that Urban Outfitters could be the tenant. California investors have purchased three buildings downtown and are studying what best to do with those buildings. Those buildings include The Simms Building, The Rosenwald Building (at 4th and Central), and the building that currently houses Gizmo. And down on first, phase II of the Alvarado Station has taken it's full shape and is in the last months of construction. Me thinks that the folks who run the Journal never drive west of I-25 or south of Montgomery.