Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Get It Together Already

Touching on a topic that is quite near and dear to me is Albuquerque's lack of ability to keep young intellectual capital. Young professionals that move here to work for up and coming technology companies as well as our established institutions are often faced with the prospect of remaining in the city with great outdoor activities, a little funky culture, neat little museums and aquarium, or move on to cities that contain the types of amenities and varying nightlife that is so desirable among late 20 through early 40-somethings.

Meanwhile, cities such as Des Moines, Omaha, Oklahoma City, etc. are investing in their inner cities attempting to raise their status among liveable cities. All this effort is to ultimately attract the companies we take for granted that are landing and growing in our very own backyards. They are investing in the beautifying of their civic parks, building arenas and concert halls, building amazing pedestrian bridges over newly developed riverfronts and selecting world-renowned architects to design stunning public libraries. They are actively supporting the networks that are encouraging indie musics latest names as well as supporting artists in an effort to build on their current assets.

Mayor Chavez, on the other hand, appears to be gung ho on making our city a place for families. Meanwhile, he's forgetting about the 50% of adults whom command greater disposable income whom are increasingly looking to dwell in cities that provide them the quality of life that assists them in maintaining a desired quality of life. With companies like Fidelity, Schott Solar, Advent, and a slew of other nascent companies, we now have the companies from which to bank our future. But what is somehow being forgotten is the maintenance and update required in our growing city. In the last decade, we've added an interchange, small updates to our museums and that's all I can remember. In the meantime, we have created tax increment financing districts to subsidize family-friendly sprawling developments dependent on a driving public and expanded utility services in a metropolitan area that is rapidly approaching 1 million residents.
Last month the New York Times released a study which showed the average distances people commute to work. Our county did not prove to be friendly to those looking for jobs close to home. Increasingly, people have moved to the west side where jobs have been slow to come. Furthermore, instead of investing in downtown and encouraging companies to locate downtown, the city has taken no responsibility in any part of this "planning." When Blue Cross Blue Shield was looking for a location to build it's new headquarters, it was rumored that the final decision was made by a managed who based it on its proximity to her home. The city, instead, should have been at the table and suggesting a location that currently remains an empty parking lot or decaying property somewhere nearer to the inner city where workers could potentially take the bus or Rail Runner. I won't complain about the architecture of the new facility because I am a big fan, but I detest the location because it is literally on the edge of the city limits.
Similarly, while the RailRunner has been in operation for nearly two years, zero transit-oriented development has been built to take advantage of the current market. These villages, in other cities, have become interesting centers for citizens of all types to live, work and play. The live, work and play tag is becoming so cliche it's almost annoying but there is great value in the concept. Cities across the country are striving to develop mass transit in an effort to create these districts because of the revenue they generate due to the demand by citizens looking for such a lifestyle. Somehow, our city has managed to stifle and squander this opportunity.

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