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.