Monday, December 17, 2007

HDIC - Really?

The Business Weekly published an article describing the Jonathan Rose projects that should begin to take physical shape within the next several weeks. They speak of 191 residential units of which 66 are to be rental units (weren't they originally saying 110?) and a collection of residential units from $261,600 to $495,650. I don't even want to get into a long rant here but wtf? Didn't they try that with the Gold Avenue lofts with little success? Aren't there enough townhomes over in the Silver Lofts phase I and II? Not to mention, these residential units will be on the ground level across the street from a regional transit center. Is this the right context for three levels (and if we're lucky, 4) of residential? Not that it can't be done but I can't think of a single city in the world that has done this without using a ginormous park to separate uses. My hope in Jonathan Rose is nearly lost. HDIC holds the cards to something I am not confident they even understand. We can't find a developer willing to make an investment that is not reminiscent of what we'll be seeing in ABQ Uptown's "urban setting?"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Civic Pride

Once again I'm taking this opportunity to compare my new city to my home. For years now I have heard nothing but the negatives about the city of Dallas, from its horrible traffic and conservative attitude to its general lack of physical appeal. After a month of exploration, I can attest to the horrible traffic but the other two are yet to reveal themselves. Now, granted, my viewport has not yet reached across the metroplex into the Fort Worth side but the sheer enormity of this city isn't conducive to simple exploration in limited time.

I'll begin with the infrastructure. There is an obvious lag in infrastructure just as you can see in every major city across the country. Most major freeways and interchanges within the city are crumbling and are no where near meeting the demands of a daily rush hour. However, there is an obvious effort to not only catch up, but rebuild aesthetically pleasing projects to meet demand for decades to come. I'm not a fan of the lone star that's plastered on everything but it is a symbol of pride and is rarely mistaken for anything other than that.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is also working hard to change the minds of onlookers with it's impressive bus schedules and it's light rail and commuter rail lines. According to the downtown business alliance, over 33% of the 110,000 downtown employees ride the train to work daily. Simply impressive. Equally impressive is the transit oriented development around several of the stations, particularly Mockingbird Station. This project is hardly inconspicuous driving down 75. From the train, the footprint of the next phase of the project is nearly mind blowing.

I bring all this up only to bring light to what I see as a shortfall in too many projects that pass through the planning department in ABQ. The ATC, ABQ Uptown, the Big I. Granted, each project was nice, but just that, nice. Our very own union station resembles a small city bus station from 1900 instead of a 21st century multimodel facility. ABQ Uptown looks no better than a shopping center in a midwestern suburb. And now the city and state are paying to beautify our interchange at a price that would be a decent start to a new interchange over on Paseo Del Norte.We talk about light-rail. We talk about transit oriented development. We talk about large civic projects left and right but yet we don't feel that we deserve anything more than a landscaped median.

I think it's about time we dressed this city up and deck her out for the big ball. We must hold planners and developers accountable for our built environment. Yes, those Sandia Mountains sure do give us something beautiful to gaze upon, but having to peer beyond uninspired, generic architecture, smog and weeds sure does put a damper on things.

Furthermore, I had the opportunity to attend the Texas State Fair. After also having seen the Iowa State Fair I now fully believe it is time to let go of our fairgrounds in its current location. Main St, Tingley and the Downs are mere shanti homes compared to their peers.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Central and 8th

Does anyone have detailed information? Developer? Renderings? sounds impressive (see comments)...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Big D - D for Development

Today I had an opportunity to see what downtown Dallas looks like in the daylight and I can safely say that our nation's fourth largest metropolitan area really lacks a true core. Don't get me wrong, 125,000 people work in a variety of small, classic midrise buildings to some impressive, modern skyscrapers. However, there's a significant lack of attention paid to landscaping and general "curb appeal." According to their website, there are less than 3,000 residential units located in the CBD. There appears to be an effort in an area called the West End that's tucked into a corner of the CBD. It's an old warehouse district that's been converted to offices, restaurants and bars. The interesting thing about this area is it's somehow generic feel. I can't tell if I'm in the Old Market area of Omaha, a section of Lodo in Denver, or Pioner Square in Seattle. These areas have become so alike as though General Properties or Simon developed them and Dallas adds to this feeling by allowing chain restaurants to overrun the area. Regardless, it's a start in a CBD in need of variety and excitement.

Fortunately, once you cross the central expressway you come to the Uptown area complete with multi-story apartments, condos and highrise condominiums and hotels. This area has what the new urbanists refer to as the "there there." It has a sense of place that draws many people to it for it's interesting shops and restaurants as well as it's scale, density and cleanliness. The multitude of apartments in the area draw thousands of young professionals to the area in droves and it is this sense of place that I'm pretty sure is what's missing the most in our beloved Duke City.

At the beginning of the decade, Mayor Baca made a commitment to downtown revitalization that set the city abuzz with excitement for rebirth. That sense of place has slowly developed with the ABQHigh loft apartments but unfortunately, there has been little effort to build upon that success. HDIC tried to cash in on the trend by jumping directly into the condo market across the train tracks without realizing that 100 apartments does not constitute a market. Developer after developer have come to build more and more for-sale condos but what all these developers fail to recognize is that it takes youth to create the type of urban community that most people desire...and youth aren't looking for mortgages, just a comfortable and exciting community be a part of.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Don't Mess with Texas

This is officially my last blog (for now) as a Burqueno. As of Friday, I will be a citizen of the city of Dallas, Texas. I think this is karma for talking so much smack about that state that's like a whole other country but it is an opportunity and job that I couldn't refuse at this time.

Alas, I plan to stay on top of the news here in the Q and will blog from time to time as these big projects start to break ground in and around downtown. I will also discuss a bit about Dallas and how it may relate to our beloved Duke City.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Of Thoughts and Freeways

Upon my return from a weekend trip to greatest city on the planet, San Francisco, thoughts of development and comparisons of structural factors that create places have filled my mind. What makes a city "work"? Is Joel Kotkin right when he argues that cities are attractive because they are cheap? Or is it Richard Florida's hypothesis regarding the creative class that wins this debate? Ooh, I know, maybe it's a balance of both.

Anyhow, our fair city is in the middle of a struggle to determine how our future will shape up. Will we invest our money in a freeway loop and further interstate expansions or will we invest that money in mass transportation systems? Ooh, I know, maybe it can be a balance of both.

After this trip, I'm reminded of San Francisco's decision to squash plans for a rather elaborate freeway system in favor of what we have come to know. More recently, the city changed a portion of the onramp to the 101 from an elevated expressway portion to a typical street, pushing the expressway further out of the city center. Boston comes to mind at this juncture as they've spent a decade relocating their expressway below ground to stengthen their urban form and continuity.

I think that what makes this decision so difficult for our city to make is that we are not only a city center in a middle of a mega urban region. We have far more interests at stake here with everyone from farmers to suburbanites to urban dwellers. It's no wonder we have such a difficult time making decisions. Here is where our sector plans and neighborhood associations come into play. It is up to us to determine what our future holds.

For a few minutes here, however, I'd like to assume the duty of determining that future for everyone. Draw an imaginary line along Coal to San Mateo, along San Mateo to I-40, I-40 to the Rio Grande, and back to Coal. For this entire area, I'd like to see only urban development lining every major street. No more setbacks, no more drive throughs, FAR requirements, and limited parking requirements. Outside of that boundary, business as usual. However, I think new developments should follow the Mesa del Sol model and be entirely master planned with new urbanistic ideals. Oh, and I'd like to see a preservation of intercity farmland.

Attempting to not oversimplify the entire argument, we need to create a need to build upward as opposed to outward. In a heartbeat, I would support an urban growth boundary to nudge development in that direction. However, I'm unsure that I live in a city whose ideals tend toward a socialistic approach that would suggest that we're all in this together. It's the wild west here and I get the feeling that far too many people only care about their home and the 150 feet surrounding their property.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Uptown Girl

What we were promised. (above)

Alright, as if I felt that ABQ Uptown was not living up to its hype before, have you seen the La Bella Spa that is opening? This two story structure faces THE PARKING LOT. Streetside along Indian School is a wall and a couple of doors.

Who's the architect on this projoect? That's right, it's supposedly this state's leader in design. I won't drop any names but we all know who they are as their name is posted on every corner that a major project is occuring.

This is a sign that things aren't right. However, hopefully ABQ Uptown will be reason enough for people to ask for better design with all of downtown's upcoming projects. Since no one will ever actually get that urban feeling in uptown, downtown through Nob Hill along Central Ave. will easily become the people's favorite.

Speaking of good design, did you see this? Cities like Vancouver and Portland did not happen because the city let developers run amok, instead you get Houston. Hell, ABQ Uptown is what happens when you trust a developer, sadly. It's not even mixed use! It's segregated! But I digress....

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

That Whole Arena Thing

Where will I park? Won't it be too congested downtown? Is that really the best location for such a venue?

Before the city throws an approximately $300 million project on our ballots in the fall (or spring), the officials really need to begin to address the issues that the voting, and paying, public are going to have with the project.

Anytime a project is proposed anywhere in this city, the first question that arises is always, "Will there be enough parking?" It's like a knee jerk reaction - or a violent, unnecessary heave if you will. What people don't know is the cost associated with the ability to have a parking spot for each and every individuals pretty little automobile or big-ass, over sized, under-used, impeccable truck. A single space in a parking garage will run in the realm of $15,000 dollars per space. I won't defend my number but I will say this is a decent average number. That's a lot of money for space that will sit empty most of the time. Let's say the center had an event every night, the space would still sit empty for 20 hours a day. Add that price tag to the potential revenue lost by not developing that parking garage into inhabited space, whether that be office, residential or retail, and you're talking major dollars to subsidize something that could be making money for the entire city.

Between the Convention Center, Civic Plaza, the new garage on 2nd and the Acropolis on 3rd and Copper, you've got over 2,000 spaces and each within two blocks of the arena. Add in the street parking in the vicinity and the lot on the east side of the tracks, we're probably near 4,000 spaces. 4,000 cars with 4 people per car gives you a full arena, 16,000 people. Take some of those people and put them on trains and busses or even, (hold your breath for this one), walking and biking, and you can see that there is hardly a need for a whole lot of parking.

"But what about the congestion?" Seeing as downtown already handles 25,000 employees daily with ease, events at the center should be a walk in the park. Don't get me wrong, it's like as "convenient" as walking two acres of parking spaces like at your local Wal-Mart, but it's still hardly an issue.

Regarding the arenas exterior design, I've found my favorite rendering; this one for a new arena in Seattle as they scratch and claw to keep their Sonics.

On the interior, I'm fairly sure we'll see the U-shape configuration that allows for future expansion without a need for extra land. As you can see in the photo of Omaha's Quest Center, one end of the arena has only a lower bowl seating area.

I've got my fingers crossed that we'll see some renderings come out of Garfield Traub in the near future. I don't have solid information regarding the architect involved with the selected team but I'm assuming HOK is involved. I've also heard rumors that Bart Prince might be involved as well. I'll always take Tony Predock, too.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Summer 2007

Alright. I know. I went far too long without a post. I'm sorry. But in my defense, I've been traveling about a bit, applying for jobs and changing place of residence. Alas, I have pics to share that I'll use to make my not-so-creative post.

So, while we get to observe three residential projects being erected simultaneously (BelVedere, Anasazi and Silver Lofts), we got a peak into what the future may hold with the Blue Dot's rendering of Packard Place. We can only hope for this project's success so one day we may have views similar to this:

OK, maybe that's a bit extreme but the density and modern architecture would be a terrific addition.

Behind closed doors, deals are being ironed out to give us a project that will potentially prove to be a boon to downtown development and popularity...

Hopefully the architecture we (might) get is more inspired, but even this project is encouraging residential and office development in a historically depressed area.

So combine an already healthy residential construction market to the opportunity to capitalize on nearly 1 million annual visitors to the area via arena events. Then throw in an already positive press about declining vacancies...

...and we will likely see new plans for more of these:

And while developers and investors flock to our bustling city to design our latest skyline-changing architectural gems that scrape the clouds, we'll hope the developers and planners work together to leave public space for which we will pay artists vast sums of money to give us giant, shiny legumes such as this one:

In the meantime, we get to gaze upon this brilliantly simple project...

...while we await official renderings and press releases regarding our favorite gossip piece:
Thank you, "Roswell", for granting me permission to use your rendering :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Proposals, Proposals

Last weeks 30-story tower proposal plus news about other developments finally making headway has this place buzzing. Finally! A good topic was raised by Brendisimo which I feel is an important question the city needs to be asking: What does the future hold regarding the densification of the city?

I have thought a lot about this and concluded that I like the idea of moderate densities along select major corridors such as Lomas, Central, San Mateo, University, 4th St., and perhaps a bit more on West Central beyond the Rio Grande. I think most of those Boulevards and Streets are wide enough to support light rail or streetcars and most are lined with strip malls that could easily be converted to 3 to 6-story mixed-use developments. I really think this city has an opportunity to do something unique by United States standards by going with this style of development. Many citizens in our city enjoy the sunny skies and vistas that I think would be washed out by canyons of tall structures. This photo below is of Barcelona. I think this could be a terrific model for the area around Central and SanMateo with slightly lower densities elsewhere.

HOWEVER, I think there should be a line drawn around downtown where the sky's the limit. I don't foresee us ever building anything aboove 50 stories, and I'm not even sure that's a possibility with the soils and aquifer.

And lastly, speaking of possibilities; I think the post office facility at Lomas and Broadway will be the next major development in the downtown area. Hopefully the post office will see the potential for the area and decide to build a new facility sooner than later. I say we aim for 10,000 new residents and 5,000 new jobs downtown by 2015. What say ye?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

30-Story (possibly more) Condo Tower - The Residences at Packard Place

Thanks to Mario, UrbanABQ is able to break a little news - ok, huge news. Here is it everyone, the kind of development we've all been quietly hoping and wishing for our downtown skyline:

From their website:

"[The Company has assembled eight city lots in the downtown Albuquerque area providing a floor plate of 30,000 square feet. BDC plans to develop the tallest high-rise condominium towers in New Mexico containing 408 residences priced from the low 200’s to one million dollars in the penthouse suites. Packard Place will be located in the core of Downtown Albuquerque’s West End. The development will include retail/commercial space on the ground level, 8 levels of parking containing over 700 parking spaces, a 30,000 square foot community floor and 20 floors of residences.]"

Renderings to come

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

More Downtown Residential..finally...

Ok, it has finally been posted. Jonathon Rose finally added the downtown Albuquerque project to their website and here is the rendering:

According to the website, the near side of 2nd St is to have 53 live/work studios, 140 mixed-income units and a 210-space parking garage. The second phase, on the west side of 2nd St. is to have 76-136 townhomes depending on the demand and market at the time of construction.

I am excited at the idea of nearly 300 new residences downtown. Also, 140 apartments (if that's the correct assumption) is a welcome addition to the condo happy area. I have no doubt the apartments will fill up upon completion seeing as the AHS loft apartments and San Felipe Apts are filled and have waiting lists the last I heard. I wish we would get a little more density seeing as this is officially the CBD. 6 stories? 8? That's not too much to ask for I don't think.

Anyhow, it's nice to see this project moving forward. A rendering is just what the doctor ordered in a time when we haven't seen many proposals come forward.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Gehry in Santa Fe?

I can't help but wonder who runs our local newspapers and why they never manage to break any real stories aside from their fraud investigations. I ran into a little article questioning the possibility that Frank Gehry could be involved in the railyard redevelopment project in Santa Fe. Sadly, this news comes via Denver. Denver is apparently more excited about this than all of northern New Mexico. Just reading the Denver Post on occasion reveals a greater connection between our neighbor city and the Mile High City. When will Albuquerque step up to the plate as a player instead of sitting on the bench?
Don't get me wrong, we're coming along, but we could use a few trophies on our bookshelf. I'm really not that lbig a fan of Gehry's work. However, his Bilboa museum is potentially the most beautiful building I have seen thus far in my travels. His shear name recognition is what people crave and now Santa Fe and Denver will potentially share this qualification(I'm looking for a better word here) with museums designed by top five architects. What makes it worse: we even have Antoine Predock as a local architect. Our assets make us so rich yet we fail to utilize them.
None-the-less, a Gehry would be an amazing addition to the region. I would ride the RailRunner up to Santa Fe many a weekend just to see it and show it off to guests.

Edit: I dug into local news sources a bit more and found an article in the Journal North newspaper regarding this project. That article mentions the possibility for the museum to be located somewhere between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. As much as I like the idea of this project being shared by the two cities, I see it as a waisted opportunity if done in this manner. Part of what makes the Guggenheim Bilbao museum so spectacular is the manner in which the building rises from the ground in an unassuming location along the riverfront in inner-city Bilbao. The project resulted in massive redevelopment in the area, creating an inviting inner city. Another item stated in the Journal was a price tag of $900 million for the museum in Bilbao. The actual cost was closer to $100 million US dollars. $50 million dollars toward this project could result in an amazing project of Santa Fe proportions. Also note the Journal article was dated after the Denver Post article.


Under construction:
BelVedere - 54 units
Silver Lofts phII - 27 units
Anasazi Downtown - 45 units
720 Roma - 9 units
Aliso phII (Nob Hill) - 13 units

Speaking of the 720 Roma condos, I hope the architect of this project puts out more urban space in the city. These units are compact, modern and downright classy. I'm really wishing I hadn't let go of my reservation. Keep it up Traveston.

Unknown status:
ABQ Downtown - arena/hotel/retail

In a recent NM Business Weekly, two articles made me all sorts of giddy upon reading.

First, UNM put out RFPs for vacant land along both Central and Lomas for mixed uses. An official of the university stated something to the effect of [UNM needs to increase housing options and improve campus life for students to create a better learning atmosphere]. They're also attempting to create "gateways" to the campus. The article mentions the surrounding neighborhoods' opinions that the university is a bad neighbor in the way that the school cuts itself off at the borders. It appears the school is finally taking steps to change all this. Hellelujah.

Also, Mr. Goodman, the developer we are providing an IRB to in order to renovate La Posada, has purchased nearly 50 acres near the new Rio Bravo RailRunner station in an effort to create what sounds like a giant new urban transit village. He also uses the term "gateway" to describe this projects relationship to the downtown area. The article states that the plan is for 667,000 square feet of residential space and 220,000 sq ft of retail space, followed by 110,000 sq ft of commercial space.

I think I'm really gonna love this city in 5-10 years. We could potentially go from one or two walkable village-like centers to multiple. The city's Great Streets Initiative could play a major role in developing these areas if it puts money into such efforts as opposed to lip service and repeated studies. The Initiative is being presented to the public on Thursday and Friday of this week:

Thursday April 26 from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Presentations will take place at 3 and 6 p.m.)
Friday April 27 from 9:00 a.m. to noon.
Both Open House sessions will be held next door to Dillard’s Women’s store inside the Winrock Mall.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

New Census Numbers

From the Census Bureau (I'm too lazy to find the link so I'll just post data):

Metro area 2000 2006 growth %
Albuquerque 729,653 816,811 11.9%
Las Cruces 174,682 193,888 11.0%
Santa Fe 129,287 142,407 10.1%
Farmington 113,801 126,473 11.1%
Gallup 74,798 71,875 -3.9%

I really thought we were growing much more rapidly with our recent 1.8%-3.6% job growth the last couple of years. I guess the economy in 2001, 2002 and 2003 really had quite an affect. Even so, that's an average yearly gain of 14,526 people. From older numbers I have seen, the census used to show a population of 712,000 for the Albuquerque metro area in 2000. That would have given us an average annual growth of 17,469. It'll be interesting to see how much natural growth that is versus in-migration from out of state. Now if we could curb the brain drain we are currently witnessing, we could potentially see growth rates on par with Austin, Raleigh and the other big gainers of the decade. I don't support growth for the sake of growth, but it's an educated, mobile population that we are losing. I believe our ability to retain such a demographic is partially the key to correcting some of our shortcomings. I know that's a vague statement but I'll leave it at that for now.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

More Flats

Following up my brain drain post, and after extensive thought, I've decided that the key to creating this youthful synergy is the availability of denser rental units. The urban parts of the city have not seen new apartment units constructed since the redevelopment of Old Main and the tangent building at the Old Albuquerque High School Lofts. Since, the area has been infused with for-sale condos that have attracted an older, more well-heeled buyer. This has been the trend along Central Ave. from the nice, poorly placed units at San Pasqual to the contemporary units by Sheffield Partners in East Nob Hill.

Currently, the apartment market in the metro area shows well above 90% occupancy with rental rates rising. And with the need for rental rates above $1 a square foot in order to produce a rate of return that is attractive to developers, it would appear that the market is ready. Albuquerque High Lofts as well as the apartments along Coal in downtown are constantly filled and there are even waiting lists. So what's the holdup?

Now, if the city took a proactive role in downtown and set goals for housing in order to revitalize the CBD, would it be too much to ask for the city to purchase land for such development? Such an arrangement would assist the developer in making a profit as well as providing much needed affordable housing in the area where students, service workers and young professionals could live, work and play in the area.

Fortunately, there is hope in the form of the new developments being planning for the area surrounding the former Greyhound bus station near Silver and 2nd St. From what I understand, several architecture firms in town are designing several mixed-use projects for the area and at least one project is likely to contain over 100 affordable residential units in an energy-friendly building. These developments are currently being projected to start construction at the beginning of 2008. Let's hope by then the arena and hotel will be starting construction as well. The rapid infusion of $200-$400 million all within a few blocks is bound to revitalize popular opinion of downtown. In the meantime we get to watch the construction of BelVedere, Silver Lofts phase II and the 7-story Anasazi.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Sagging Core?

Once again, our local print media has published an article proclaiming downtown to be in a state of decline. First, Berger Briggs reported they are moving their main office to North I-25 a couple weeks ago. Now, Ruby Shoesday owner Jackie Gonzales states she is moving her boutique shop to the uptown area. Oh, and the Petroleum Club closed as well. Although I wasn't even aware they were still open anyhow. Apparently, this is the sign of the rapture for our Central Business District.

This article comes from a newspaper that is in the middle of the action at 1st and Central. Let's compile a small list of activity within a quarter-mile of their offices:

1) Arena & Hotel ($350m) - right across the street
2) BelVedere - ($13m?-ish) - 54 residential units plus retail three blocks west
3) Silver Lofts phase II - 27 residential units seven blocks west
4) Anasazi Downtown - 45 lofts w/ retail
5) old Greyhound site - 100+ lofts plus retail
6) Gertrude's castle
7) WESST CORP downtown incubator on Broadway south of Lomas
8) Impending renovation of La Posada

These large developments are in addition to Mass Mutual, Lockheed Martin and Sento Corporation's decisions to open offices downtown within the last year. Not to mention the opening of the first retail establishment to open up in the Gold Avenue Lofts - Vitality Juice Java & Smoothie Bar. I'm no Alan Greenspan (although his genius can be argued with the coming impacts of his policies) but downtown is still on the move and not really going south. The exodus of one retail shop and addition of another is just business as usual. I can understand the Journal writing this type of garbage seeing as their property is the beneficiary of any increases in land prices around "Journal Center." Me thinks the Business Weekly needed to keep employees busy last week.
Edit (Monday, 2-26-07, 2:51 PM): See Don Pizzolato's article over at Duke City Fix. This is why newspaper articles are so damaging when writers don't understand their subject. I usually like Don's posts because they are intelligent, but this time he's jumped on the bandwagon. Some of the commenters have great constructive criticism, however.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lobo Woes and Tesla

Another picture that I think represents UNMs current state: rebuilding and full of potential.

David Schmidly will be UNM's 20th president. Hailing from the Big 12s Oklahoma State, the distinguished man brings the depth that everyone desires in a leader as well as a connection to the region. I'm unsure how excited I am given the controversy over his past, but overall, I think this will be positive for the university as it should bring some stability and some form of direction. This decision is slightly controversial due to an incident that occurred while he was the president of Texas Tech University. Without going into details, the accusations seem to have cast a quite a cloud over the strengths he brings to the position. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are now stronger schools because of him. However, it still does nothing to ease the minds of those that cannot understand how the regents have, once again, made their own decision against the will of the faculty. Regardless, it's time to look past the shortcomings of clueless regents and move to accomplish what is hopefully everyone's goal: improving higher education at the state's flagship university. Schmidly has spoken of creating strong ties between UNM and CNM to assist in the improvement of student preparation for rigorous collegiate work. I think this effort will go a long, long way to creating the atmosphere that most desire. Now, if this administration could only be convinced that creating a more attractive, dense campus that opens up to the neighborhoods. The city is (ready for this?) working with the university to allow students to ride ABQ Ride for free at all times. Now if the university can invest in a few thousand housing units for currently commuting students, we'll have ourselves a quite happening University District. The opportunities just seem to jump out at those looking for positive change in the area but I digress. We'll see what precipitates from this 20th president.

Sadly, in other UNM news, there are rumblings that the university is looking to develop the UNM North Golf Course. This news makes me very angry. The city has excessive amounts of ugly, open lots that could easily be developed, further making the campus far more attractive. But instead, the regents think this is a good idea. I really hope the people stand up against this plan. It is rediculous. With students now able to ride the buses for free, I think it's time we develop some of those parking lots into something usefull and more attractive. 75% of the North campus is ugly parking lots that butt up to a nice neighborhood. *throws up arms in dispair*

In economic development news, an electric car manufacturer headquartered in California has made a deal with the state to construct a manufacturing facility that will create hundreds of good-paying jobs. Tesla Motors is the latest high tech manufacturer to set up shop in our fair city. Eclipse, Advent and Tesla will add up to several thousand jobs that continue to give us a high tech image. I'm diggin it. And I'm diggin the Tesla car. 0-60 in 4 seconds? I'm sold.

The Roadster

Monday, February 05, 2007

Brain Drain - Does Size Matter?

This is a subject that is quite prominent in my life right now as my friends are really starting to enter their careers and beginning to invest in real estate. The question that comes up: "Is Albuquerque really the place for me at this stage in my life?"

This subject comes up periodically on forums throughout the web and the answers range from "run far, far away from ABQ" to "It's a beautiful city with everything you need." From my personal perspective, I would estimate that 60% of my acquaintances say there is just something about Albuquerque that just doesn't foster the single life as one would hope. My kneejerk reaction to such comments is along the lines of the old saying, "the grass is always greener on the other side." But after significant thought on the matter, I really do have to question the validity of these comments.

As much as I approve (for the most part) of Mayor Marty's performance and the city's overall direction during his term, there is something to be desired. His policies have pushed for affordable housing, safe streets and economic development at first glance. Each of these are vital to a healthy city, however, it does nothing beyond the keeping with the norm.

Looking deeper, our city is and has always been a college and technology town. Nearly college 50,000 students plus Intel and Sandia/Kirtland. Throw in a dash or two or eight of art and culture and I feel like that's a decent summation of our city. Still, once those college students graduate, a good deal of them leave for Denver, Phoenix and even Dallas. Those that remain go on to jobs with local companies, purchase single family homes in the NE heights or NW, have children of their own and continue the cycle.

Recently, a study was published showing 51% of all women in the country are single. That would suggest a similar rate for men. Are we a conservative city that would like all our citizens to be married, having children and living in our single family dwellings?

Large cities are attractive to the 20s and 30s crowd, not necessarily as a result their size but because they offer a diverse range of opportunities, housing and otherwise. In Albuquerque, we are trapped by a size complex believing we "can't" do something because of our size. However, I think we hinder ourselves by not looking for alternatives and just going with the flow because it is perceived to be working even when it really is not.

There are cities around the globe, and even in the US that are as large as Albuquerque and even significantly smaller that offer variety and "vibe" that attract young and old alike. It's the built environment that is the key. Having an attractive natural environment is definately a huge boost, and in that regard we are second to none. But that natural beauty can only go so far. Throughout the West, places like Boise, Salt Lake City, Reno and others can provide similar settings. Our built environment and culture/vibe are what truly set us apart. Me thinks we need a changing of the guard so to speak. I don't want to wait till my 40s to see this place get there.

OK, I may have rambled on and gotten off topic. But, these are issues this city needs to take into consideration before we can even think about competing with Denver, Austin, Portland, etc. I'm not saying we should be like them, just suggesting we could provide certain amenities that make these places attractive to all groups of people.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I Wholeheartedly Approve

A hotel, arena, residences, retail, parking, an additional street...
All I hope now is for the hotel tower to exceed 200 feet. Regardless, I'm impressed.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy 2007

I'll begin with a picture:

This picture sums up the coming of the new year for me. A clean fresh start (although now it's mostly grey and slushy after about 18" of the white fluffy stuff over the last few weeks). Even thought this year is mostly rolling from the momentum of last year, this year has the potential to be a whole new giant step for the city's move to a higher level of urbanity.

Another building to be converted to condos: 500 Copper.

With four major downtown residential projects under construction and two MASSIVE developments to be made official this year (Jonathon Rose Co's project and the arena project), 2007 may be as monumental as 1998 when the plans for the downtown came to fruition.

Near the new Gertrude Castle, this area will soon be urban residential on a level Albuquerque has not seen before.

In Denver for the New Year's weekend, I got to experience something that I couldn't help but feel a little jealous of - riding the light-rail into downtown in the middle of a snowstorm to attend a sports event at the Pepsi Center. Imagine riding the Railrunner and/or Streetcar to the downtown arena to attend a concert or to the Pit for a Lobo game. Oh the possibilities....