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UNM to condemn land for south campus development

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The University of New Mexico today began the process of condemning 24 empty lots of land for public use owned by an Albuquerque family for development of its south campus.

UNM also wants to purchase nine other lots belonging to different families in what is the continual expansion of its presence in the Avenida César Chávez and University SE vicinity.

It is the 24 lots, off Sunshine Terrace SE owned by a family identified only as the Gutierrezes, that UNM wants to buy through eminent domain. Sunshine Terrace is just south of Avenida César Chávez and runs from Buena Vista Drive to slightly east of Interstate 25. The Gutierrezes have agreed to the condemnation of their land, and UNM today filed a request for a court to appraise the land.

“We believe this is the fairest way to proceed,” UNM president Bob Frank said in a statement. “UNM wants to acquire the property to continue development of the south campus area in a way that will benefit both the university and the community, but we are sensitive to the interests of the landowners.”

UNM plans on using the land for baseball and softball stadiums, tennis courts, other athletic playing fields and parking, according to a news release.

The university estimates the lots are valued at about $1.1 million, which the university would pay for by reallocating 2007 bonds, according to documents.

The land acquisition has been many years in the making, but only in the past few months has the university been able to convince the family to agree to condemnation. The family has previously declined to sell because it felt UNM wasn’t offering enough, the university said.

Regents in an executive session in May passed a resolution agreeing to the acquisition. This week, they approved the reallocation of the bonds, part of which were earmarked for the purchase of anther plot of land and its facility. However, not all of the funds for that were used, and what remains will go to the costs of purchasing the Sunshine Terrace lots.

“The regents believe this action is an important part of the long-range master plan for the UNM South Campus,” regents president Jack Fortner said. “We already have more than 800 students living on South Campus and this planned development would provide them an area for educational and recreational activities.”

UNM has aggressively been working to develop the south campus area for several years. In December, regents approved a deal with a Cleveland-based company for the development of three plots of land totaling almost 50 acres around the Pit.
Fairmount Properties will lease the land from UNM and develop restaurants, shops and more. About 900 students live at the apartment-style student housing Lobo Village. The Pit, which is just east of there, has 1.3 million visitors a year, UNM says.

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