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?

21 comments:

John said...

Aye!

Bravo Tim, you're absolutely right. Good development along Central, San Mateo, Lomas, and 4th should just be simple mixed-use with only a few stories. We don't want to turn ABQ into Chicago. Barcelona would make a fine model, and if we built enough mixed-use development, we could finally meet the demand that exists for urban living and hopefully bring the prices of housing down a bit.

Now the tall buildings, I'm a little worried we're jumping the gun on it a bit. Shouldn't we attempt to fulfill some of the demand for urban living with projects like Romero Rose's thing before we go on to these super expensive lofts in 30-story towers?

brendisimo said...

we are never going to get the sort of density we need unless we get infill developments that are affordable to the average albuquerquian. affordable enough that they attract the sort of people that are currently buying homes for cheap over on the west-side and creating a sprawling, low-density dust bowl.
which is why the new developments that are going in on 2nd street downtown are nice because they are reserving a portion of the units as "below market rate". I've also heard rumors that the empty lot on Central, in huning highlands, across from the grove cafe, is going to be a mixed-use, affordable housing project...anyone know anything?

And on a side note, are they planning on tearing down the first baptist church at central and broadway? or just adding a tower to the existing brick building? It would be a shame to lose that history...building brand new structures all the time (instead of converting older ones) makes cities look bland and fake.

martin said...

i have heard that there is to much value in the first babtist buildings for them to be torn down. any developement would be in the parking lot that is now located to the north of the main church building.

philly said...

They better NOT tear it down!

Too many historic buildings have been torn down, or burned to the ground in ABQ's history!

There is plenty of room next to the buildings.

ABQist said...

Since Tim posed, “What do you think?” I decided to answer. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple question. And me being a native, I have some strong feelings. Perhaps my response will inspire some thought, response, and perhaps action. I want to see change from status quo – I can honestly say I do not have the answers. So here’s my two cents, er, buck and two cents worth.

Albuquerque is ready to grow up – it’s been ready. We see ABQ really starting to populate. We see DT beginning to come alive, but a skyline that needs a lot of work. Little Rock, AR has a population of only 184K but has a very nice DT skyline and other high-rises scattered around town with their tallest being a whopping 546’. Bellevue, WA has only 117K but has a beautiful skyline with several towers under construction. Their tallest 450’. Both of these cities have a skyline with appeal that draws you in. Fresno, CA has 461K (similar to ABQ) and just over 1M metro. It has the ugliest skyline I have ever seen. The buildings are old and the newer buildings are all in the 8-10 story range. There is nothing seen from a distance that would make you want to come any closer. Albuquerque is at a crossroads and has the potential to go either way. When you build horizontal instead of vertical you block out views and sunlight and there are no icons to accentuate or contrast the smaller buildings. Until ABQ Plaza was built, ABQ had a flat, blocky, horizontal skyline and the core all but died. The goal is life, vigor and enterprise to experience down below with beauty, style and grace to look at up above. People driving by on the interstates need to see what is happening down below from what is represented up above. They should see pride, excitement, growth and prosperity in the skyline which invites them in where they also find charm, functionality, expression, entertainment, and an atmosphere which compels them to return and shop, be entertained, just pass time or even to live there. The core is connected to its surroundings through transportation, culture, industry, tourism, infused activities, retail and employment opportunities, geography, economics, weather, natural terrain, and lifestyle, etc. The core is a microcosm of its surroundings.

All I can say is if you have never been to DT San Francisco, you need to visit sometime and take in a day of sightseeing via cable car or trolley, shopping and a Giants game at Pac-Bell Park on the Bay. Here you will see all the elements of a thriving, charming, living, breathing core with unlimited possibilities. I know ABQ is not SF. But the concept and feel of SF can be a model for any growing city which is seeking identity and revitalization. We need not be afraid of high-rises which enhance the vistas. I like walking around in Uptown with the view of the Sandias as a backdrop of modern architecture, landscaping, and charming spots. But rather fear the horizontal walls that block out light, warmth, views, and life. Case in point: Sheraton Uptown, Menaul & Louisiana. The ugliest, widest, vista-annihilating 8 story structure in ABQ. Examine it sometime – UUUUGLY! Now allow me to inform you what was originally proposed there was a 14-16 story narrow tower with more of the characteristics of charm, class, pride, and an icon with a view of the mountains both looking at it and from it. A memory-maker for someone visiting our unique city. However, the final product was a total failure by the people who are supposed to promote, enhance and better our city. A one time blunder can happen, but this example is just the tip of the iceberg of the many failures of administrations of the past.

I believe that because of its natural setting and unique culture, ABQ has the potential to be one of the most charming, beautiful and desirable communities in America. I mean that. It also could be better than it is and also has the potential to go south with poor planning and traffic. There are some who fight progress here and they could ruin our great city. Stifling growth leads to deterioration and poverty. Four small rock drawings held up the extension of a regional highway for twenty years – we cannot allow that kind of attitude to prevail here. And now that Paseo is finally about to open, the Mayor says the landowners are responsible for widening it and making it a functional facility. WRONG – that’s the city’s responsibility. Tax the land-owners when they build, but the whole city can’t wait on one or two individuals so we can get to work. What if they sit on the property for 25 years. Does the mayor think we should keep Paseo a 2 lane facility for 25 years?!!! Look around the west side and you will see MANY choppy roads going from 4 to 2 and back to 4 lanes, dirt or closed sections, finished roads that are road blocked – all waiting for Joe Smith to build on his 50’ frontage so the city can tax him to pay for another small section of road. Then we wait on Bob Smith. NO MORE of this nonsense please – we’re trying to take pride in our city as we also have a life to live. Is this city planning or lunacy?

With that said, I feel that the city needs are as follows in order of priority – I am certainly open to everyone’s input – this is a forum. 

From 1-5:

1. Revitalization of the urban core.
- Retail, shops, cafes, restaurants, designated street vendor areas, and theatres all connected by a master plan of decorated walkways, art, kiosks, fountains, landscaping and a LOCAL transit system of trolleys (for potential to connect with a future regional transit system.)
- Edo, Lomas, and west DT all have potential, but I’d like to see a Riverwalk-style master plan for the rail yards: “Desert Paradise” -- a major life-giving bloodline to DT. Waterways with waterfalls, fountains, small walk bridges, flag stone streets, contemporary SW architecture & design, flowers, vines, multilevel restaurants, shops, and cafes, all directly connected to high-rise residential, offices and hotels.
- 2-4 story mixed-use to boost density and 10-15 new high-rises in the 25-50 story range to accentuate the skyline: offices, condos and hotels. The type of high-rise development I’d like to see for our city can be found at: http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=79987
- A 20,000-25,000 seat arena to open up the possibility of an NBA, WNBA, AFL, NHL team, with greater concert and convention possibilities (see the arena at: http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=93980

2. A regional transportation plan including a freeway loop and completion of unfinished arterials.
- The mayor recently said he didn’t want to build out certain roads because Rio Rancho would use them. Is this a sick joke? Get over your differences. We’re neighbors for life -- RR isn’t going to move away. Work together so ABQians can benefit. Saying RR’s problem is RR’s problem is arrogance AND incompetence. Working together with a plan for now as well as the future will provide solutions, functionality, and civic pride. Can we put someone in office who has vision?
- Traffic in ABQ is MUCH worse than the majority of the SF Bay Area (7.5M people.) And nothing is being done. I heard the mayor is putting a band-aid on at I-25 & Paseo and that a REAL interchange is 8-10 years away. If this is true and this mentality persists, when a regional, forward looking plan for our entire area is years past due, I may not want to live here any longer. (I love ABQ but HATE traffic.)
- The answer: a freeway loop. Make Tramway/Roy an eight lane limited access expressway with interchanges at 2nd St, I-25, Louisiana, Wyoming, and Eubank. Take it west across the river through Rio Rancho, curve south just west of Double Eagle and continue across I-40. Turn east just south of Gibson and connect to I-25 at the Broadway interchange. Continue east and enclose Mesa Del Sol to its south and east and finally connect to I-40 near Tramway. If Rio Rancho wants to build a connector from 550 south across RR to the Loop, great! Something similar was proposed in the early 1970’s. We are running out of time and land if we don’t do it now. In ten years ABQ traffic will be a nightmare and we will all be saying, “if only…”

3. Landscaping every major road and highway by establishing a Landscaping Division within the City for planning, procurement and installation of materials and vegetation.
- I love the landscaping in the SF Bay Area but we don’t have the water. Though not as lush and warm, I love xeriscaping even more. Phoenix, AZ should be our model. We CAN do that if it is a priority. An un-landscaped city expresses lack of pride, poverty, shoddiness and makes a lasting impact on visitors. My friends from out of town always take note of our natural beauty AND our biggest man-made failure. “Why don’t they landscape here?” will inevitably be asked by every visitor I entertain. It’s time and it will only happen if it’s a priority. The Mayor said it was, but three terms later, it isn’t. In conclusion: every mile of city freeway and every median on every four lane or bigger road should be nicely xeriscaped.
- Many cities have had volunteer tree planting programs. Why hasn’t ABQ ever tried this. Most trees can survive here w/o plumbing. I don’t know about you, but love trees!

4. Attractions and Jobs.
- A thriving community needs industry and entertainment. Tesla, Eclipse, and the movie studios, are positive developments. Piper would be a huge addition. We need more of this kind of industry for high paying jobs and tax revenue. We also need more attractions. The City, Sandia Casino and Six Flags could work together for a top-notch amusement park. The Indians could provide the land for a huge SW getaway entertainment mega-park. Golf, resorts, casinos, hotels, and “Disney on the Desert.” Perhaps we could build on the Unser name to start a major motor race. SunCal needs to build another regional mall around Paseo Del Vulcan and I-40. That is the future of ABQ growth and it will help them to sell houses on their recently purchased 55,000 acres. The Gov has mentioned an NFL team. In 5-7 years we will be ready. Perhaps MLB, we need a vision and we need to get the ball rolling. A football stadium on the west side and a 35,000 BB stadium in downtown should be in the early planning stages. A dreamer you say? There are at least two dozen American cities kicking themselves because they missed the boat. They didn’t plan until they were ready, then it was too late.

5. Infill and Alternate modes of transportation. Infill tends to occur naturally in a thriving environment. Alternate transportation then becomes viable. I think Tim is right about his higher density ideas for designated locations and arterials. Higher densification needs to occur along specified corridors where light rail can be promoted. The main thing I’d like to see with regards to infill is attractive, functional structures with plenty of art and landscaping. My biggest complaint here is that too many neighborhoods are throwing away positive development. The South Valley recently rejected an 80 acre commercial/retail development on an existing weed patch next to a Wal-Mart. The developer offered to provide low-income rents for startups and other incentives for a neighborhood in dire need of jobs, opportunities, growth and positive development. Very sad news to me. The North Valley rejected the prettiest Wal-Mart I’ve seen that would have continued the beautification of an up and coming Great Street – Osuna. Wal-Mart offered all kinds of compromises but the NV and city council said no. These people will still shop at Wal-Mart – the one in your neighborhood and mine – increasing our traffic congestion, pollution, parking and shopping lines. Neighborhoods in a bustling city are not independent but rather members of the whole. Fighting bridges, roads and highways must FIRST be looked from the position of its impact on the region. Can we let the whole city suffer because few reject the normal city needs such as jobs, facilities and infrastructure. I think we need to elect city councilors who can see the bigger picture.

Roswell said...

Well said, ABQist!! I would strongly suggest that you send a link to this post, hard copies and emails of it to every media outlet in the ABQ metro, the Mayor, every ABQ City Counselor and even the Planning Department.

I'm a native of Albuquerque but am a resident of Minneapolis now for the past couple of years and Denver for two years before that. Albuquerque has such unbelievable potential to grow properly if only those that curtail its growth would exorcise themselves of the outdated and outmoded efforts to keep the city in the dark ages. I am so utterly sick of half-assed efforts and best of intention development.

I'm all for Albuquerque maintaining its sense of culture and environment. It can have and be everything good that Minneapolis or Denver is without turning into them...but it simply needs to get off its butt. The time is now to do it right because it WILL happen by default and if that happens, we may as well rename it to Minneapolis Two or Denver Two.

ABQist said...

Thanks roswell -- I know there are others out there who feel like I do. I don't think I'm asking too much for a beautiful, progressive, thriving ABQ and an end to the madness that has prevailed here for over 50 years. If traffic gets any worse, no one will want to live here and businneses will move on. Somebody has speak up. And thanks Tim, for allowing me to vent.

ABQist said...

@mayor and 8 of the 9 city councillors that have joined the fight against the Osuna Wal-Mart (Sally Mayer excluded):

I attended last year NMDOT's North Valley unveiling of the proposed Paseo/I-25 interchange (I have the handouts and printouts in my posession.) The NV residents were vehemently and angrilly opposed to the interchange. Considering the distance from the NV to this proposed interchange and the impact of this interchange on the entire ABQ metro area's future, I hope you see their selfishness and their utter disregard for all of ABQ. These people fought the Montano bridge for 30 years! When will you wake up and see they are anti-ABQ and pro self. Stop protecting them. If you use my tax-dollars to condemn the Wal-Mart site and buy it for $6M to preserve a weed patch I will vote you out of office.

@ABQ know your district's councillor, vote, and give 'em the boot! The NV doesn't want traffic, they'd rather congest and pollute YOUR neighborhood. How convienent.

ABQist said...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wal-Mart Gives Up on Center Plans

"This is a great day in the Land of Enchantment," said Rod Crawley, president of the Vista del Norte Alliance neighborhood group.

- AbqJournal

No, this is a sad day for progress and free enterprise. If these NV people continue control our city, there will not be a Paseo/I-25 interchange and commute traffic will back up to the moon. I suggest using, 2nd, 4th, Rio Grande and Osuna through the North Valley instead. Info on any residential shortcuts would be appreciated as well.

Tim said...

abqist,

I think we have the same hope and vision for the future of this city but I think we would take different paths to get there.

I am with the councilors on the Wal-Mart issue. Wal-Mart contributes nothing positive for any community. As it is, I'd love the ability to condemn their stores and create liveable mixed-use villages out of the huge swaths of land they consume.

I have mixed feelings about the loop freeway idea seeing as it does promote additional poorly planned sprawl. However, the city is in need of additional industrial zoned land with interstate access and we've gone away from a city with the CBD at its center. We really do need to pull development south if downtown is to ever become the cosmopolitan CBD we envision. A loop freeway would encourage such growth. Now if the city would only tackle updating their codes and creating a further reaching comprehensive plan...

ABQist said...

Tim,

Unfortunately (and fortunately to some degree) both Wal-Mart and urban sprawl are here to stay. Wal-Mart provides jobs for those might otherwise be unable to find employment (handicapped, elderly, students,, etc.) and also provides HUGE tax revenues that pay for roads and other infrastructure. Wal-Mart was the only member of the private sector that contributed financially to the Paseo extension. I doubt after their recent battle with the city that we'll see much more of that. I think the city failed to see the bigger picture.

And I most certainly disagree with your concept of taking them over. This is something we might expect from dictatorships in Venezuela or North Korea, but this is America which is a capitalistic society -- and I'm glad that it is. Sam Walton and Bill gates (like 'em or hate 'em) represent the limitless bounds of opportunity of free enterprise that exists for us all. It however is certainly your choice not to shop there. My complaint is that the people who live in the area where Wal-Mart was rejected will still shop at Wal-Mart, congesting my neighborhood. I also like infill more than weeds, and the architectural design that Wal-Mart proposed with three pad sites would have fit nicely with the Osuna corridor (much better than weeds.) I also think the city is sending the wrong message to other potential developers. Why haggle and waste money in ABQ – “Phoenix will take our money and tax revenue.”

As for the freeway loop and urban sprawl, well, I think urban sprawl has been over-demonized. Don't get me wrong, I believe in a strong CBD and POORLY planned sprawl can be ugly. But ABQ is going to grow west and we better have the roads to move people back and forth -- there is already a serious problem. What some might consider urban sprawl, Ventana Ranch is one of cleanest, safest, and most beautiful new neighborhoods, with plenty of landscaping and parks. It also represents the American dream for some people like myself. DT and HD corridors are great residences for some people, but not me, I have a family of five. I will certainly work, shop and be entertained in DT, contributing to its life and vigor, but prefer a more suburban setting for my children. I have a HOA for a small sum which provides me benefits not available in an older neighborhood. I think other families looking to move here should be afforded the same opportunity. Perhaps the American Dream to a younger person like yourself can be found in investing in a DT loft or high-rise condo. But it’s not that way for everyone.

I-40 and I-25 were built in the early 1960’s and we haven’t built a new freeway since. In this respect, ABQ must be the most ancient city in America. Adding more lanes helps in the existing core, but cannot address the new growth. We can focus on light rail and HD corridors, but we cannot afford to stick our head in the sand and ignore the new growth that is inevitably taking place – faster than ever before. The entire city of San Francisco is like an urban core of 750,000 surrounded by the Bay Area suburbia (7.5 million.) Yes, there is light rail and trolleys in SF, but the city is also connected to its surroundings by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and an extravagant freeway system. All these combined provide for a vibrant, thriving community that must be seen to be appreciated. There were days I would take BART to take in a ball game, but there were times I just needed to get from A to B in a hurry, so I would drive. The Idea is to give commuters more options, not to force them into a one track mode which then reverses the benefits of that mode.

I do appreciate you providing this forum and I can see we do share a lot of common views.

philly said...

Sorry i havn't had much time to post.

Great posts by both of you guys.

Real quick:

I totally agree abqist on a freeway loop. People don't understand that the CITY is going to grow no matter what. What people are doing wrong is voting against roads like the Paeso extension, in hopes to curb development. When in reality, it deprives the residences in areas such as the West side/Rio Rancho of basic road infrastructure. Not the way you wanna do things, the NIMBY'S are basically shooting themselves in the foot.

I wish I could post more, as there are so many topics I want to reply to, but let me say that agree with abqist in the idea of citizens fighting something they really don't understand. Though I agree in pronciple with Tim on the fact that the neighborhood wants, and fights for it rights.

To be honest, an ugly open space for balloons to land is extremely selfish, and really limits on what can be built there. Now don't get me wrong, Wal-Mart isn't the most neighborhood friendly tenant, but the whole idea of NIMBY has really gotten to me. I wish they would all move to Santa Fe, and stay stagnant.

John said...

I don't think preserving that space for the hot air balloons is slefish at all. What happens if we fill in all the good balloon landing spots? Well, the Balloon Fiesta will have to move, and that'd be a disaster for Albuquerque's tourist economy. Purchasing that land goes way past a simple hatred of Wal-Mart, it was an investment in our future.

"Wal-Mart was the only member of the private sector that contributed financially to the Paseo extension. I doubt after their recent battle with the city that we'll see much more of that. I think the city failed to see the bigger picture."

Sorry abqist, but I'd rather not have the city kissing Wal-Mart's behind everytime they want something. If Wal-Mart wants to build a new store, they can find a nice large blank lot on an existing major arterial (plenty of them on Coors) where they're not going to piss off all their neighbors. They can do it, they've got the money.

Just my two cents.

Mario said...

I don't think government should step in the way of the private sector as well. That being said I'm not a big fan of Wal-Mart, and I feel we have sufficient super centers already! Now while I agree with many points made by all of you the only thing I'd disagree with ABQist about is that Wal-Mart will not want to build anymore stores here or help pay/fund other infrastructure projects. Wal-Mart's stores here in the metro area are some of the most profitable in the chain. In fact the Cottonwood store was #1 for sometime and continually places in the top 10. As long as they continue to rake in the profits, they'll continue to build regardless of what happened on Osuna.

As for Los Ranchos, I could go on all day long! I really wish Albuquerque could take over that village so we could really start to see some real progress for those West of the river. It is said when a select few (rich folks) can literally make the lives of thousands more miserable. Our quality of life would increase immensely all over the city if were not for the Village of Los Ranchos. I love the North Valley and I'm all for keeping the rural charm, but a few more Montano bridges would not destroy the feeling of rural-ness there. As a city and metro region we need to work together, something Los Ranchos has never been willing to do!

One last bit of news; it appears Piper Aircraft has narrowed its search for a new manufacturing facility (and possibly their headquarters) from 5 cities to 3. And you guessed it we're still in it (ABQ, Oklahoma City, and Vero Beach, FL). This would be great news considering the recent layoffs at Intel, and possible cut backs at Sandia.

Anonymous said...

I am all for smart development-however,Wal-Mart is a disaster for communities! Low wages, few benefits for employees,drag down fights with HOAs, dirty politics, poluting our environment without a care etc. Additionally, do you know why their prices are so low??? Because they force vendors to go so low that many can't even afford to stay in business afterwards. But the vendors feel that it's suicide not to appease Wal-Mart, so they do it. There are so many horrible actions that Wal-Mart takes against our people and our economy, that there are hundreds and thousands of books and articles writen on this very subject.

ABQist said...

Great news for landscaping lovers: I spoke to councillor Cadigan today in another forum and he assured me that the long awaited (and overdue) landscaping of the Big-I will get underway this week!

The $10M project is to be completed in four phases over two years. If the final product is anything like the renderings, this will make a tremendous impact on our city. Perhaps this will inspire more funding for much needed landscaping in ABQ.

ABQist said...

Yes, it's official. The city officially broke ground today on the Big-I landscaping! It is a 5 phase (not 4) project with phases overlapping over the next 2 years. Giving credit where credit is due: thanks Marty!

Anonymous said...

wal-mart sucks,its too damn crowded and too much in and out traffic,I wouldnt want one in my neighborhood either,what an eye sore, but I am all for growth in Albuquerque,I wish the city planners would follow other cities and actually make downtown modern with some high-rises, smaller cities with much more impressive skylines are Tulsa,Omaha,Des Moines,Iowa,and Birmingham,Alabama,now that is bad that we cant get anything done here.

Not a walocaust supporter said...

Abqist
You have some good ideas in that post. I'm glad you saved the Walmart comment for last or I would have never read all of that.


http://www.walocaust.com/site/

ABQist said...

I will refrain from my opinions about Wal-mart since it is a political issue as well as a planning issue and I have no opinion on the politcal side of this issue other than I'm a strong proponant of free enterprise -- not unethical practices of course, but I don't know enough about Wal-marts ethics at this point.

That said, my complaint with the North Valley's prevaling NIMBY attitude remains unchanged. Th NV attempted to place a well-publicized moratorium on ALL big box city-wide to gain the advantage on one site on Osuna.

This goes way beyond NIMBY, now it's "not in my city." NV: you don't own this city. you've tried to control it for years. If you don't want a Paseo/I-25 interchange that is so desperately by our entire metro region, then GO LIVE ON THE MOON!

Michael said...

What I say is...where are you Tim? Why have you abandoned us? Yours was/is my favorite ABQ blog!