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Landmark’s days numbered

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The Blum Building, Rio Rancho’s former City Hall, is scheduled for demolition. (Rio Rancho Observer—MIKE HARTRANFT photo)

The Blum Building, Rio Rancho’s former City Hall, is scheduled for demolition. (Rio Rancho Observer—MIKE HARTRANFT photo)

A 36,000-square-foot piece of Rio Rancho history is about disappear.

The two-story Blum Building, which originally was headquarters for AMREP Southwest and then served as Rio Rancho’s first City Hall for more than two decades, is on the demolition block to make way for eventual redevelopment of the site.

The building is in one of the community’s oldest commercial areas and among the structures in the Rio Rancho Shopping Center being torn down.

It’s been vacant since 2007, when city government offices moved to the new City Hall in City Center.

The building is owned by RRSC LLC, a partnership of Argus Development and Prime Properties. An Argus news release said demolition will begin in a matter of days and take about a month to complete.

“In conjunction with the demolition of other buildings at the Rio Rancho Shopping Center, the redevelopment of this prime corner at … Southern Boulevard and Highway 528 is sorely needed,” the company said in a news release.

The first phase of the redevelopment includes the Walmart Neighborhood Market planned on the south side of the center. The old movie theater has already been razed, while demolition is nearly finished on an adjacent office building.

“We don’t have any concrete plans at this time,” Argus president Ben Spencer said about what’s ahead for the Blum Building site. “We certainly think once (Walmart) opens, it will create a lot of interest from retailers and we’ll adjust our plans accordingly.”

Spencer said there are no imminent plans that would affect other tenants in the shopping center such as Samon’s, O’Hare’s and Laura’s Laundry.

Rio Rancho’s original developer, AMREP, built the Blum Building and moved into the structure in 1972. It was named for Irving W. Blum (1902-1978), who was chairman of the board for the AMREP Corp. from 1968 to 1978. A plaque in his memory was attached to the front of the building.

The year after the city’s incorporation in 1981, a search committee identified the building as a possible permanent home for the new municipal government. It completed a $1.93 million deal to acquire the building in 1983.

The city shared space with AMREP for a year or so until the company moved to its own new headquarters in the industrial park in 1985. It served as the primary office and meeting place for some nine mayors and nearly 40 people who served on the city council between 1983 and 2007.

“A lot of important decisions were made in that building that set the foundation for Rio Rancho,” Mayor Tom Swisstack said.

The city put the building on the market for $1.2 million. The Albuquerque-based Argus purchased the structure in December 2007.

Rio Rancho Public Schools at one time considered leasing the building for Independence High School but eventually abandoned the idea because of code and cost issues.

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