Sunday, November 23, 2008

MLS in the 505

Photo courtesy of Flickr user: swilsonmc

The governor has changed his tune and gone back to Expo NM with plans for an equestrian facility. Great. Now what about the remaining 200+ acres of highly unused land? As I have posted previously, I do not believe it to be in our best interest to continue with the fair as it currently exists. Between the Downs relocating to Moriarty and Tingley Colisseum becoming irrelevant, nearly half of Expo NM land will remain unused.

From above, it is glaringly apparent that a majority of the unused space lies along Central Ave. and Luisianna Blvd. Would this area not be best used by complimenting the city's efforts to strengthen the international district and redevelop Central Ave.? In addition, this could create a district of transit-oriented development that would likely compliment a rail line to connect downtown and uptown. I'm talking dense, walkable development with offices, residential and even some industrial space. This could reasonably be done while still maintaining the existence of the fairgrounds, if so desired. The lost parking spaces could be replaced with above and below-grade, multi-level garages.

Additionally, the main point of this post is to address the need (ok, want) for Major League Soccer. Imagine a regional park with soccer and baseball fields as well as an MLS stadium. This could be New Mexico's only chance to obtain a major league sport and soccer happy Albuquerquean's are likely to support such a team. I stumbled upon an article that lists the Duke City as a potential candidate for an expansion team. Granted, the article discusses expansion of a USL-1 franchise but I bet an argument could be made for an MLS team. And while the governor is attempting to solicit ideas for Expo New Mexico, now would be the perfect time to move ahead with efforts to secure a team. The article states, "A short list of markets from which we believe a USL-1 franchise could be successful with the proper ownership and venue include, but are not limited to (in no specific order): Omaha (NE), Tulsa (OK), San Antonio (TX), Tampa (FL), Phoenix (AZ), Boise (ID), Oklahoma City (OK), Albuquerque (NM), Memphis (TN), and Birmingham (AL) We are currently in advanced discussions with interested parties in several of these markets."

The stadium would be a sizeable catalyst for redevelopment to the area as it would attract approximately 15,000 fans (league average) to the stadium for 15-20 events, annually.

We have so, so, so much potential if we could just realize it. Where are the leaders, such as Mayor Tingley, with the vision?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What's Not To Love About This?

I am sold. Transit oriented entertainment. What other city has the opportunity to do this? After reading the report explaining the reason for a 10,000 seat arena, I've decided I would be fine with a 12,000 seat venue...with expansion capabilities of course. The arena architecture is a little weak. I also think retail and taller residential is needed on Broadway. Kudos, design team!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Transit Oriented ABQ

The Rio Grande Foundation (NM's version of the CATO Institute) has been given significant opportunity by the local press to bestow their "research" and "wisdom" upon the citizens of our state and region. Their libertarian slant and anti-taxation preaching, however, adversely clouds their judgement. Americans, in general, are highly likely to rebel against high taxes. So when plans for mass transit and a publicly financed downtown arena were announced, it was no surprise that they immediately pushed back with their agenda.

Before the transit vote, Paul Gessing, the current President of the Rio Grande Foundation, was a guest on Eye on New Mexico to tell us what a waste of money it would be to approve such a tax. He even conjured up scenarios for which the project was ineffective. Naturally, he used a worst case scenario. But while his argument immediately sounded rational and pragmatic, it ultimately failed to recognize the full cause and effect of the project.

Quietly and void of the fanfare of the librul (ha) media, towns up and down the commuter rail line have implemented plans to create vibrant, walkable town centers and villages around their RailRunner stations. These areas will eventually house tens of thousands of citizens whom will have the option to move about the metro area by public transit. This seems like such a foreign idea today but it will become the norm in decades to come.

Missing from the argument about this tax was the discussion of future generations ability to live sustainably and with transit options. It is about changing our lifestyles to reflect a rapidly changing urban reality. This tax was every bit about how our city will balance fringe growth with infill. The mayor and MRCOG need to stress this idea to get everyone on the same page because the current, [do it because it's good for us] argument is a tougher sell.

I'm proud of the citizens of the middle Rio Grande region for supporting this tax as it will further improve our transit systems. It will be interesting to see how this arena project will unfold. Will the city be able to sell the voters on the project or will Paul Gessing's misleading research combined with the city's marketing inabilities be enough to keep the project grounded, yet again?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes We Can

An historic day I will never forget. Just 77 days till change.