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.