Historic building at Broadway and Central has been eyed by APS, city
A two-alarm fire that ripped through the 61-year-old First Baptist Church building Downtown late Wednesday apparently hasn’t changed Albuquerque Public Schools’ plans to buy the property.
“We’re waiting to see if there’s any serious structural damage and what the extent of that is,” said Brad Winter, chief operations officer for APS. “But I’m pretty sure (First Baptist) has insurance on the building. We are still very much interested in the site.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Albuquerque Fire Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Federal law requires ATF to investigate any fire that damages a church.
Firefighters arrived on scene at 11:18 p.m. Wednesday, according to AFD spokeswoman Melissa Romero. Heavy smoke and flames inside the building prompted a huge AFD response. More than 70 firefighters went to the scene, and within two hours they were able to contain the blaze to the first three stories of the iconic, five-story building.
She said the fourth floor sustained minor smoke damage.
One firefighter was taken to an area hospital for smoke inhalation.
The APS board recently approved $11.3 million to buy the church property at Broadway and Central. APS wants to convert it into a fine arts magnet and performing arts school, possibly teaming up with an existing performing arts charter school, although details about that are sketchy.
The purchase won’t be final until due diligence inspections are completed.
“We’re in that process now, and this may push that back a little,” Winter said.
Church leaders could not be reached for comment.
The 700-member First Baptist congregation moved into a building on the West Side last year. Church historians trace the congregation’s origins back to 1853, according to Journal stories. The five-story Downtown landmark went up in 1949. The property also includes an auditorium and classrooms.
That was part of what appealed to APS, Winter said.
“We knew we could start a small magnet school here without much work,” he said. “Depending on insurance issues, that could still be the case.”
APS isn’t alone in its interest to buy the old First Baptist building.
In June, Albuquerque city councilors voted 7-1 — with Winter, who is also a councilor, abstaining — urging Mayor Richard Berry to enter into an agreement with the school district to share the property.
City Hall has had its eye on the First Baptist property for years as part of a $400 million development project. But the effort has stalled over questions about how to pay for it.
Councilor Ken Sanchez, who co-sponsored the June measure, said Thursday that he thinks the city should still pursue purchasing the property.
“It’s an ideal location for an events center,” he said. “If APS doesn’t purchase it because of the fire, I would hope the mayor would continue to consider doing so.”
Thursday, 19 August 2010 09:01
Arson investigators are looking into what caused a fire that broke out shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday at the old First Baptist Church building on the northwest corner of Broadway and Central in Downtown Albuquerque, according to broadcast reports.
Bystanders noticed smoke coming from the building, and while flames weren’t visible from the outside, smoke filled the Downtown skyline, according to KRQE News 13.
Albuquerque Fire Department spokeswoman Melissa Romero said an engine
was dispatched at 11:18 p.m. to the building at 101 Broadway NE after a
report of smoke coming from the building, and when additional units
arrived they found heavy smoke and flames throughout the four-story
Seventy-plus firefighters contained the fire to the first three stories within two hours, with minor smoke damage reported on the fourth floor.
One firefighter — Lt. Paul Chavez — suffered smoke exposure and was taken to Presbyterian Hospital for evaluation and was reported to be in good condition this morning, according to KOB-TV.
According to KOB-TV, the fire quickly spread through several floors of the building, and firefighters blocked off several streets in the area to fight the blaze.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had investigators on scene because federal law requires the agency to investigate any church damaged by fire, Romero said in a news release.
The City of Albuquerque has been looking at the property for years as a possible location for a Downtown events center/arena, KOB-TV said.
And in June, the Albuquerque Public Schools board of education agreed to purchase the building for use as a magnet school for the performing arts, the station reported.
An APS spokesperson told KOB-TV that the school district is still considering the purchase but will have to assess the extent of the fire damage.