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)


John said...

Great post, Tim. Nice look at everything that's been going on downtown lately.

A 22-story building...Now that would be an interesting addition to the skyline, as long as it's not another downtown building with no personality (if you've waited at the Rapid Ride stop on Gold Street, you'll know what I mean). One thing I like about the Anasazi development is that while it's tall (for Central Avenue), it at least has retail spaces facing the street.

I've seen the Sawmill development, they're doing some really interesting stuff there. If you haven't looked at it yet, I recommend driving through if you find the time.

I hope Jonathan Rose can build that housing, those few blocks there look kinda bleak.

Something else I would like to see is a new train station for Amtrak. I don't know who in the world would pay for it, but the little building looks so miserable next to the nice new Greyhound depot.

Phil said...

How many people already live downtown, Tim? I'm talking about established neighborhoods like Wells Park, Old Town, Barelas, Martineztown, Raynolds, and Huning Highlands as well as new lofts. Seems to me there must be a lot more than 3000 people there.

A lot of the recent focus on downtown seems to skip the neighborhoods that are already there and only looks at the lofts, a lot of which are still vacant...

Tim said...


I'm not so sure about your statement about the focus being outside the neighborhoods. There is, actually, a significant amount of activity in each neighborhood, from the area around the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the sawmill neighborhood, Tingley Park, etc. Each neighborhood is seeing significant change. However, small infill and other such development isn't news worthy, so we never hear about it. As for the lofts, only two developments aren't filling up: Gold Ave. and the former National Bank building. Those two buildings only account for 60 or so residential units out of several hundred that have been filled. But again, news tells us otherwise.

It's been estimated that there are approximately 25,000 living in the entire district area. And you're right, those people are often left out when these discussions occur. Perhaps it's because they are not seen as potential patrons of downtown businesses? I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree Tim.

What's said is these folks don't have a full service supermarket in their own neighborhood.

I tell ya, whoever gets the balls to open a supermarket, will make alot of money if done right.

Phil said...

No, you're absolutely right. I'm an ABQ native and one of the most exciting things in recent years has been seeing the flurry of renewal and activity in Downtown's older neighborhoods, especially Old Town, Wells Park, and the Sawmill development. I think the area from Old Town and the Museums to say 10th-11th street or so has the potential to become Albuquerque's next truly walkable shopping/dining district a la Nob Hill.

My comment was more about the way the media seems to cover things: most discussions about whether downtown renewal is going well or not, from the Journal to the Trib to Duke City Fix, focus just on lofts and what's right downtown. I think that's a shame, since as you point out a lot of the real renewal is taking place elsewhere.

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