Saturday, December 10, 2011


Possibly the finest cinemotography dedicated to urban planning issues. A must see for those in the field or interested in our developing world.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Inbound/Outbound Migration

Forbes has released its latest interactive map using 2010 Census data. Similar to last year, we're pulling from Florida, the Midwest, East, and Southwest, while hemorrhaging to Texas, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest. Texas for jobs and the others for creative class, urban centers (i.e. more emphasis on quality of life and less on jobs)? My wish for 2012 is that we begin to see investment in the quality of the built environment so that people will move here for the quality of life and not just for work. I believe this happens to some extent, but quality of life needs to become a part of our brand.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shop Local for the Holidays

I'm loving the mayor these days. He referred to the "built environment" of our city in his State of the City address, displaying his increasing sensitivity and understanding of urban issues. He's now putting our money where his mouth is with his continued support for ABQ the Plan. An initial $20 million for the convention center, $1 million to complete an environmental impact statement for BRT along Central Ave, and now money for both the completion of the 50-mile bike loop around the city as well as for "river work." It is not clear if that's the boardwalk that was originally supported by the committee or not. Regardless, I'm already on board. Lastly, there's been commercials dedicated to encouraging people to shop locally for the holidays. The City has gone an extra step by providing free street parking in three city neighborhoods; Nob Hill, Downtown, and Old Town.

In other news, la Tejana Susana helped the Downs obtain a 25-year lease on Expo NM, with the unrivaled proposal to add a casino near the intersection of Central and Louisiana. Naturally, the brilliant plan set the new structure behind a sea of parking. While most people hoped for more, the outcome was about par with the golden nuggets coming out of Santa Fe these days. It's sheer unimaginative, conservative, old thinking, and there's no excuse for it given the level of interest and the prime location. (photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Journal)

Monday, October 31, 2011


I desperately wish this film was being screened in the Duke City.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Healthy Urbanism

A quote from Peter Calthorpe's recent book, Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change, that I feel is a perfect metaphor for the current condition of many of our cities - and Albuquerque certainly resembles these remarks:

"Urbanism so defined has been on the wane for the last half century. Our cities and towns have been on a high-carbon diet - and our metropolitan regions have become, in short, obese. Oil is like a high-sugar and high-starch diet for cities; it expands the waistline without nourishing strength or resilience. Urban neighborhoods are like healthy diets: they build on unique places and local history, they use natural ingredients and mix them well, they tend toward local sources, and they are lean. America's postwar suburbs are like fast food: their history and sense of place trumped by mass production; their ingredients dominated by a few generic staples; their resource distant and large; and their infrastructure highly subsidized. Our urban footprint-its physical size and resource demands - has expanded in unsustainable ways for too long."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alvarado Urban Farm

Alvarado Urban Farm by ABQturkey
Alvarado Urban Farm, a photo by ABQturkey on Flickr.

Another block of the downtown urban fabric being put to better use than parking or abandonment. The urban farm is well on its way to success and ownership by the larger downtown community. Hats off the the Downtown Action Team for making this happen.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Park(ing) Day - Albuquerque 2011

Aside from the UNM Landscape Architecture students and their park on Harvard near the university, there were two parks today on Gold Ave. downtown. This one was by a group that called their park, Parametrix Parquito. It was a fun day downtown as many people asked about the event and were extremely supportive of the event's effort to raise awareness and advocate for urban, social space for people. Cities for people! (not cars)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Park(ing) Day - Albuquerque. September 16th

I'm going to be lazy and post the generic press release. There are just over 2 weeks to plan one with your friends/family/kids/coworkers/mist(e)ress/whoever.

September 16, 2011 — In cities around the globe today, artists, activists and citizens will temporarily transform metered parking spaces into public parks and other social spaces, as part of an annual event called "PARK(ing) Day."

Originally invented in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio, PARK(ing) Day challenges people to rethink the way streets are used and reinforces the need for broad-based changes to urban infrastructure. “In urban centers around the world, inexpensive curbside parking results in increased traffic, wasted fuel and more pollution,” says Rebar’s Matthew Passmore. “The planning strategies that generated these conditions are not sustainable, nor do they promote a healthy, vibrant human habitat. PARK(ing) Day is about re-imagining the possibilities of the urban landscape.”

Locally, the event will be celebrated in Albuquerque by various groups, organizations, businesses, and anyone else that would like to participate in the free event. There are planned parks in downtown and the UNM area. Join your friends, coworkers, classmates, or someone random on the street and create a public space in a metered parking spot between 10 and noon on Friday, September 16th!

More information can be found on the event website:

A page for the event in Albuquerque can be found at:

If you are interested in participating, the group webpage can be used to coordinate and discuss any planning related issues.

We hope to see many parks, er parquitos, on the 16th!


About the founders of Park(ing) Day
Rebar ( Founded in 2004 in San Francisco, Rebar is an internationally recognized art and design studio operating at the intersection of art, design and ecology.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

ABQ Bicycle Master Plan. Is It a Plan or an Evaluation?

Trusty Steed by ABQturkey
Trusty Steed, a photo by ABQturkey on Flickr.

Looks like the city awarded the plan update to another non-planning firm and is getting quite the nugget in return - and it ain't golden. See it here.

For those of you that use the bicycle facilities in this city, please take a look and provide feedback to this document. The city's website calls it a "final" document but it appears to be more like a 50% draft. And...discuss.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Found this fantastic illustration created for the city of Waterloo, Canada. I'm personally against BRT to the extent it's being proposed for our city. There's no single solution to this growing transportation quandary as it will take a combination of technologies applied in contexts best suited to their respective strengths. I'm losing faith that the COG understands this and there's no question that the board at Rio Metro don't have a clue as to what their role is...

edit: The graphic doesn't seem to work so I added a link up top to the website. Have a look see. I'd love to hear other thoughts on the matter.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

You Say Fiscal Challenge, I Say Lack of Leadership

In the Sunday Journal, Mayor Larry Abraham, also the vice chairman of the Rio Metro RTD, wrote about how it was our fiscal responsibility to cut weekend service. He went on at length to explain how it was inevitable given falling tax revenues and ending government subsidies. This is the typical, exhausting, lazy leadership we hear excuses from time and time again.

What about the money that 4,000 plus people save on a daily basis. Their money in turn goes toward purchasing more goods and services in the community rather than paying for gas (which in turn doesn't nearly pay the price of roads). Then there's vehicle maintenance. Did I forget air quality? The railrunner has spurred development in downtown Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Los Lunas, Belen, etc. Does that economic development get counted?

With real leadership at Rio Metro, we'd have more transit oriented development around our stations, which would lead to a more viable system that is more useful to greater amounts of people as well. This eventuality is the only means to making this system truly viable.

Thanks for taking the lead on that questionable vote, next time keep your hand down. Thanks. Perhaps next he'll suggest an enlarged 4th Street through Los Ranchos?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Top 10, no, 12 Wish List

A couple guys at skyscrapercity posted their wish lists and it got me thinking. Below is mine in no particular order.

1) Create a loop of elevated light rail (Central, Coors, Paseo(?), Louisiana/Wyoming???), with a cut and cover subway along Central from Rio Grande to San Mateo. This would allow for the complete rehab of Central in that corridor.

2) A regional scale park (probably not quite like Zilker but more akin to Millenium in Chicago but smaller, and extends to the north along 1st a-la Old Montreal's waterfront park) on the north side of the Rail Yards where one can take in the Sandias, the Railyards, and downtown skycrapers, while reading a book in a lawn.

3) A streetcar running in a loop on 2nd and 3rd between Cesar Chavez and I-40. Also, a line between UNM and the airport along Yale to connect with the loop.

4) An upzoned warehouse district for mid and highrise housing and commercial, which extends the downtown core to the north.

5) Upgrade the Bosque trail to include wider pathways, places for seating, and least in the busiest portions

6) Desertpunks Comp Plan idea is spot on. We need to designate and upzone nodes for density (a REAL centers and corridors plan) and compliments the transit system.

7) The fairgrounds I'd like to see turned into an urban village that supports housing, commercial, and an MLS soccer stadium/complex that compliments a downsized fairgrounds area. All parking could be structured and underground.

8) A symphony hall downtown...or the fairgrounds if you must, but only if 9...

9) A downtown arena and 35+ story hotel tower all crammed into downtown proper...none of this sprawling-into-edo mess

10) Bus service extended to late night to compliment the mass transit loop

11) New, attractive, modern central library...hold an international design competition so you know who doesn't horde that project as well...

12) I do like the idea of utilizing the river for recreational purposes. We have an amazing natural environment that compliments the built environment but we need to incorporate it better.

Oh, and bike lanes and paths all around downtown. It's flat and there are trees...perfect for walking/biking!

Cities for People!

What's your wish list? Did you send it to the Mayor?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fool Us Twice?

Thanks to a tip from skyscrapercity username swerve3030, we have evidence that Goodman is pulling the good 'ol bait and switch on us. First, Hunt sold us on a mixed-use, multi-story ABQ Uptown. Now, Goodwin's plans for Winrock appear to have withered to a worst case scenario and we've already agreed to help him finance it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Locals and Tourists #243 (GTWA #763): Albuquerque

Eric Fischer was nice enough to post this on his flickr account after a friendly request. What does this image say about our built environment? How can the urban design of Albuquerque be influenced by this?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Burque Moon

Burque Moon by rt41959 (Randy)
Burque Moon, a photo by rt41959 (Randy) on Flickr.

Just one example of the excellent photography being shared on the UrbanABQ flickr page.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"The Plan"

I'd say that Mayor Barry is drinking the Kool-Aid and I hope he continues to do so. Last week he presented "The Plan," aimed at investing in quality of life projects for our fair city. He even included a laundry list of potential projects as a way of beginning the conversation and I would say that every one of his projects deserves consideration except for the Paseo Interchange. That one in no way contributes to place-making or our community's culture. I'm also a little disappointed in all BRT talk coming out of MRCOG. But, again, it's all worthy of discussion and also happens to be transit planning's technology du jour. If this is the type of foresight the mayor has developed as a result of trips to Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, and Chicago, imagine what would happen if we sent him to Copenhagen and Bilbao. I salivate at the mere thought.

This discourse originating from city hall complements an article from my favorite, local rag, Local iQ, where they have proclaimed that "Albuquerque is perched to become the best place to live, play, and ride in America."

Mayor Barry and Local iQ are my favorite people/entities of the week.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Coming and Going

Forbes published a nifty interactive map that illustrates inter-county population movement using 2008 census estimates. What stands out to me is how we tend to pull people from the Northeast and Southwest while hemorrhaging noticeable amounts to the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and Southeast (jobs?). LA, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, and Minneapolis appear to supply us with ample new citizens. Meanwhile, 'Burqueños tend to leave for job creation centers like Atlanta, Dallas, and Austin as well as the real urban centers of NYC, DC, Seattle, Portland and Boston. This is rather old but interesting none-the-less. What does this imply with regards to our city? Are people happy/unhappy with our quality of life? Perhaps our job opportunities? Built Environment?

Now let's compare our performance with that of Austin, TX (Travis County). I'd say they're doing something right.

Monday, April 04, 2011

We're NOT a Dangerous City - New Rankings

Do you think this will allow the local news media to cover real news? Yeah, I doubt it. We ranked 77th most dangerous city. Our ranking suggests we are safer than many of our neighbors including OKC, Dallas, Tulsa and Las Vegas.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Quality of Life = Jobs, v2.0

An article that uses an example in Troy, Michigan to equate quality urban environments with educational/talent attainment. With a world class institution and several strong universities nearby, this is quite telling for this Michigan city. The author and CEO try too hard to associate poor development with sprawl but the point about young talent requiring a variety of quality urban environments is spot on. It's nice to see our city slowly paying attention to those details with projects like Lead/Coal, Central Ave. in Nob Hill, and MLK between UNM and I-25. But still, these reports and comments are important for the City (and University!) to pay attention to so that we can address the gaps that make our city and region less competitive for investment. Asking educated 20 and 30 somethings, as well as CEO's, what this city needs would reveal a few surprising things and lots that we probably already know but are slow to address.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mesa Del Sol is Back Online

A new era of smart growth for the Albuquerque metro area is about to begin with the construction of new homes at Mesa del Sol set for groundbreaking on March 28th. This is great news on so many levels. First, it's a strong indication of Forest City's confidence in our market. Second, it bodes well for future employee retention for all the companies that have chosen to locate in an area that looks like a big 'ol gamble at this point. I'm personally excited that it will help to push the geographic center further south from the current center, which is near Journal Center. Theoretically, this will help push an increase in redevelopment pressures at the core.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Samitaur Selected as Developer of the Barelas Railyards

My first response was, "WHO?!" Then, I did what anyone not in the know would do: I did a google search. This revealed a heap of information and press regarding their Culver City project that includes their headquarter building, which resembles a modern version of Bart Prince's home along Monte Vista. Further research
yielded a partnership with Eric Owen Moss Architects, also out of Los Angeles. I was, im-mediately, angry that we are again contracting a non-local firm to do work in Albuquerque but then drew a blank when attempting to conjure up a superior, local solution. I'm now happy to see that even though we went beyond our borders, we didn't settle for some "starchitect" like Gehry, Liebskind, or Foster, whose works can be found in nearly every major, damn city from Trenton to Timbuktu. Their works are growing a bit too commonplace and it's nice to see fresh ideas rather than the same three designs twisted and contorted in unoriginal ways.

Enough about that, these are exciting times seeing that this process is proceeding. Imagine what a redeveloped railyard and (this is optimistic, I know) arena/hotel project would do for downtown Albuquerque. Below are some images of projects from Eric Owen Moss Architects. Oh the things we may see in our very own ciudad...
I think what I appreciate most about this team's work is their heavy, industrial, yet modern designs. The railyards are large, hulking, industrial masses lurking in their corner of downtown. I would hate to see new development not complement the precedent they've set. Nearly every attempt at post modernism that's been attempted in our city has a stripped-down feeling to it that makes it feel like it'd be more at home in Omaha. I am comfortable and confident that this team will push our boundaries as a community and I'm giddy at the mere thought.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

UrbanABQ on Flickr!

I've added a slideshow to the page and a link to the new flickr group for those that use the site. It would be great to see people sign up for the group and post their favorite pics of urban Albuquerque. Cheers!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

State of Our ROWs

2011 begins with my first job as a the great city of Albuquerque! While I'll miss riding the bus to UW, walking downtown to shop along Pike and Pine, and taking light-rail to the stadiums and Sea-Tac, I am wholly content to begin my career in the Duke City.

I now find myself commuting in my SOV to work while lamenting our auto dependence. Absorbing the scene, I find myself contemplating the various reasons our right-of-ways (ROW), and our sidewalks, in particular, aren't filled with pedestrians and bicyclists. Sure we see a few gusty winds, a few weeks of warm (almost hot) temps, and occasionally frigid temperatures now and again. But overall, our weather is pretty temperate when compared to wet and gloomy Seattle (yeah, yeah, Summers are great but what about the other 9 months?), and extremely hot and muggy and/or frigid and snowy rest of the country. Sure, I left out a bit of the country or glazed over some of its intricacies but overall our weather rocks. Take that, Austin! What's up now, Portlandia? Go shovel your driveways, Denver.

So what gives? Where's the street vitality? Well, it doesn't take too many Marble brews to figure out that it's our streetscape design. Let's take our prime pedestrian friendly corridor, Central, through Nob Hill as our case study. How many open air patios can you count along that corridor? How many pedestrians do you see socializing along the street? The answer is not that many. I have not seen traffic counts in that corridor but I'd venture to guess in the realm of 35,000 vehicles per day. Each of those pollution belching motors revving along at 35+ miles per hour does not facilitate the pedestrian experience that architects like to render in their utopian collages. While urban design elements such as street trees and sufficiently wide sidewalks go a long way in aiding in this effort, even more is necessary.

Once the city figures out what it really wants to do with its streets, and more importantly its centers and corridors plan, then it can begin to structure its arterials in a complementary fashion. While the Great Streets plan attempted to address this effort, it can be argued whether or not it really followed the centers and corridors plan as a guide. Central Ave, from Washington to the Rio Grande will never be the pedestrian corridor it can be until its design is properly addressed. This change may necessitate a designation change. I'm not familiar with the classification system of ABQ but I'd assume it needs to be downgraded from major(?) arterial to a minor arterial. This change would allow sufficient modifications to the street to provide the elements within the ROW that need to happen for Nob Hill to truly flourish as a pedestrian environment. Protected bike lanes, anyone?

This process is gaining popularity and is known as a "road diet." The city is dabbling in this movement along the segment of Central between downtown and Rio Grande. I'm unsure where plans currently lie but I'm aware of an existing proposal/plan that aims to do so. I think Lead and Coal also followed this movement before it had a name. But what's interesting about this plan is its location. Very little development has taken place along that corridor over the last decade compared with the entire length of Central between downtown and Washington. I suppose it was more palatable to start in a less congested segment? The problem with doing this is the city will see a muted result due to the intensity of development along that portion of the corridor. So, unless the economy changes for the better in the near future, we may not see the ramifications of this reconfiguration for at least a decade. Why not go straight to our greatest neighborhood and let it be all that it can be?

The sooner we see the benefits of tailored street designs the sooner we can modify various corridors near those so-called "centers" so that they can create what I am assuming is the vision of the comp plan. Or we can study what other cities have done and how they've managed to successfully implement these roadway changes in exchange for healthier neighborhoods. Regardless, let's hope the upcoming update addresses this centers and corridors concept's lack of clarity. While it takes a step in the direction of establishing the necessary framework, there is much work to be done. Inner city sector plans which require one parking spot per bedroom with a maximum of two per unit is not going to get us to where we are claiming we want to go with our envisioned "sustainable" future but that's a whole other related discussion.