Jul. 22—A new police station in the center of Downtown, a rail trail pedestrian walkway, increased trash collection and more lighting are among the projects the city is undertaking to revitalize the area, bolster the business community and increase safety.
Mayor Tim Keller and other city officials made the announcement Wednesday during a news conference in front of the Rosenwald Building, at Central and Fourth. The building represents a joint public-private partnership with the Garcia family, which owns a number of Albuquerque-area automotive dealerships as well as investments in Downtown, including more than 1 million square feet of office space.
"Any successful and vibrant city in the world, let alone America, has a strong Downtown," Keller said. "We are essentially revitalizing our core after the pandemic."
The Garcias will rehabilitate the Rosenwald Building and provide rent-free space to the city for a police station for 13 years.
Built in the early 1900s, the building was purchased by the city in 2007 for $1.6 million. It was in such an extreme state of disrepair that 14 years later it was appraised at $327,000, said Lawrence Rael, the city's chief operating officer. The city put out a request for a buyer in late May, with the requirement that some space be reserved for a police substation. The Garcias were the only bidders, according to Rael.
He said the city estimated that the cost to refurbish the building would have exceeded the city's original cost.
In addition to a more visible police presence in the hub of Downtown, the city is investing more than $1 million to improve or add lighting in the Downtown area, said Pat Montoya, director of the city's Department of Municipal Development. This includes lighting on streets and in alleyways where it is currently deficient.
"Those are dark spots at night, places where crime is just encouraged to happen," Montoya said. "The brighter we can get the alleys, the better it is for everyone."
Matt Whelan, director of the Solid Waste Department, said street sweepers will clean the Downtown alleyways on Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings and work with the Albuquerque Police Department to remove homeless encampments and offer those people social services and other resources.
There will also be a dedicated graffiti crew assigned to the Downtown district to remove graffiti "even before it gets called in," he said.
The rail trail, a pedestrian walkway, is also in the works, said Karen Iverson, manager of the Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency. The 1-mile trail will go from Lomas and the railroad tracks, south to Marquette, where an at-grade crossing will be constructed at the railroad tracks. The trail will continue on the east side of the tracks and go south to the Rail Yards.
"This is going to really connect east and west Downtown, physically and economically," as well as provide "a great opportunity to have lots of exciting and engaging art," she said.
"We looked at an analysis of the property tax base, the property values, and that EDO (east Downtown) corridor from I-25 down to the tracks over the past 20 years has gone up 800%, but Downtown has only gone up 50%," Iverson said. "It takes a few big projects to really boost a neighborhood economically and boost the city fiscally. We want to connect that and bring that into our Downtown area."