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