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Tax districts considered for Uptown, Nob Hill

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Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Business leaders in two of Albuquerque’s signature shopping districts – Nob Hill and Uptown – are exploring the idea of taxing themselves to pay for improvements.

In Nob Hill, the money could be used to pay for wayfinding signs and improving facades, supporters say. In Uptown, there might be a shuttle to move shoppers among the malls and other destinations.

The proposed “business improvement districts,” however, are still in the early stages and haven’t been submitted for City Council approval yet. The process involves gathering petition signatures from 51 percent of the property owners in each of the proposed districts.

Karen Marcotte, planning consultant for the Uptown Progress Association, said the formation of such districts allows businesses to pool their money for a common purpose. They’re becoming more common across the country.

“I think in a tight economy, businesses are always looking for ways to leverage their dollars,” she said.

The only business improvement district in New Mexico right now is the one in Albuquerque operated by the Downtown Action Team, which provides street cleanup, marketing and other services.

Debbie Stover, executive director of the Downtown Action Team and a former planning director under Mayor Richard Berry, said a business district can help generate revenue to make the physical environment more appealing, in addition to recruiting new businesses to fill vacancies.

“Having one centralized organization to do that, instead of all of the businesses, is extremely helpful,” Stover said.

The Nob Hill Main Street program just won state and city approval of a $48,000 grant to start developing planning documents for an improvement district.

“This is economic development, I think, at its best,” said City Councilor Rey Garduño, who represents the Nob Hill area.

Gilbert Montaño, Albuquerque’s deputy chief administrative officer, said the mayoral administration generally supports the formation of improvement districts “as long as everyone is on board.”

The Nob Hill district would cover Central Avenue, from Girard to Washington, and from Copper to Silver.

Chris Smith, a real-estate broker and board president of the Nob Hill Main Street group, said the district could impose fees that would raise about $125,000 a year. There’s interest in using the revenue for facade improvements, wayfinding measures and a community garden.

In Uptown, the idea is to form a district covering the malls, “ABQ Uptown” and other property between Menaul and Interstate 40 and San Pedro to Pennsylvania. Residential properties would be drawn out of the district, Marcotte said.

The money, perhaps $200,000 a year, could be used for road improvements, running a shuttle and other services, she said.

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