Pondering the various activities that took place over the past year from my favorite downtown coffee shop I can't help but feel optimistic about 2011. In the past year we've seen the completion of several new housing developments within the downtown core as well as discussions of an downtown arena and hotel, a redeveloped Expo NM grounds, redeveloped railyards, and Winrock Town Center. Of course there's been whispers about developments further out of the city center but we like to minimize their significance here on UrbanABQ. These four projects have the potential to greatly alter the image of urban Albuquerque and each project's surrounding areas due to their sheer magnitude.
Currently, there's a proposal for Expo NM to expand the casino. It will be important for the International District to continue their dissent of this plan. The mere suggestion of such a lame solution reeks of laziness and lack of imagination. If state fair commissioners won't take into consideration the effects of that white elephant on it's surroundings then it's important for the community and city to make them see the error in their ways. This is where the councilor of that district and mayor would be helpful in voicing the concerns of the community. Fortunately, Senator Tim Keller, has been doing his job in advocating for a smarter approach.
Recently, Gary Goodman announced plans to begin construction at Winrock mall. I refuse to call it a town center till there's more than a sea of parking lots surrounding the entire site. While this proposal is small in scale, the theatre that was announced will do well to attract patrons to the area that currently lacks a nearby, modern cinema.
The arena and railyard projects are the least likely to occur anytime soon, unfortunately. The political will just doesn't exist despite public enthusiasm for both.
Additionally, while I am concerned about plans for the removal of the homeless from downtown, I can't help feel a little relieved for the downtown area. There are positives and negatives to concentrating such services. While a concentration lends itself to a network of services that are accessible, the concentration of users paints a negative image on the community where the services are located. After extensively studying marginalized populations in foreign countries, I feel some level of guilt for my moderate entusiasm. My hope is that the city is moving these services to locations that are still accessible for those that are in need. It'd be nice to see one of these facilities placed in the far northeast heights as to create a balance but that's just not the way these things work. To this day they have been tight lipped regarding their plans, though, which is disconcerting.
Lastly, a drive around the urban core of our city presented a sort of carte blanche that I am ecstatic about. In Seattle, I have seen how an existing, dense urban fabric has limited possibilities through well established zoning, design guidelines, and NIMBYism. While those elements exist here as well, we still have many open lots along vital arterials and corridors that lend themselves to an enhanced urban environment that can greatly turn the tide against our auto-centricity. The big question is whether we, as a community, will see to it that smart development occurs. Hopefully 2011 will see a significant step forward in the progression of our built environment to match that of our unmatched and unique natural environment. A safe and happy new year to all.