ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mayor Richard Berry and the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project were singled out for NAIOP’s Chairman’s Award in the commercial real-estate group’s annual Awards of Excellence.
Berry’s leadership in moving the controversial project forward and ART’s impact on the cityscape, economy and future development were spotlighted in the 21st annual program hosted by the New Mexico chapter of NAIOP, the commercial real-estate development association. The chapter also bestowed Eagle awards to recipients in 10 different categories as well as special accolades.
Described in the awards as “one of the most transformative infrastructure projects” by the city of Albuquerque, the $119 million bus rapid transit project, primarily funded by the federal government, runs down the middle of Central Avenue between Louisiana and Coors boulevards. The project was hailed by NAIOP as a game changer.
“The intent was to increase the utility of Central for everyone – buses, cars, pedestrians and bicyclists,” said NAIOP’s award presentation. “But ART is not only a business. It’s an investment in the very fabric of Central Avenue and Albuquerque.”
The project drew its share of controversy, with vocal opposition from some merchants and residents along the route concerned about the construction disruption, effects on parking and inconvenience for motorists.
Lynne Andersen, president of NAIOP New Mexico, said “You can’t ever diminish the angst” experienced by small-business owners along Central. She said the city reached out on many levels to mitigate the impact and inconvenience of the project – during and after construction. “The story is now that ART makes (Central) a better place for everybody, both residents and visitors,” she added, referring to the nine miles of improved roadway, and installation of lighting and fiber optics that will benefit existing and new businesses along the route.
Now nearing completion, the project also had a homegrown benefit for NAIOP members in Albuquerque.
ART brought business to the local office of HDR Inc., the engineering lead on the project. Dekker/Perich/Sabatini supplied all architectural and landscape services. Graphics and branding are by Studio Hill. The prime contractor was Bradbury Stamm Construction, and out of all the subcontractors on the project, only one was not local.
But it would be remiss not to talk about the star of the show – the bus fleet itself. “These buses are unlike any ever seen before in Albuquerque,” the award presentation said. They are all-electric, battery driven, through electric motors built into the driving wheels. So unlike diesel buses, they produce no heat, soot or sound.
Also on Friday, Berry, former UNM President Bob Frank, and Terry Laudick, CEO and president of Nusenda Credit Union, shared NAIOP’s Cleve Matthews Vision Award for promoting a public/private partnership focused on innovation.
“For the first time, academia, city government and the private sector came together to establish an entity to diversify our economy, support entrepreneurship and create the foundation for an Innovation District,” the award presentation said.
These efforts are centered in the newly opened Innovate ABQ Lobo Rainforest Building.
“The facility is the first step in an ongoing, strengthening bond between the three original entities, and a growing cohort of others who have a vision of an Albuquerque innovation ecosystem,” the award presentation said.
The Chuck Gara Community Leader Award was given to Brian Burnett of Bohannan Huston Inc., who was saluted for his extensive community involvement. The award presentation spotlighted his leadership in NAIOP and professional engineering groups. He also currently serves as vice chairman of the Presbyterian Healthcare Services board of directors. Another contribution was Burnett’s establishing the NAIOP Business Water Task Force “to ensure that the business community had a voice in the state’s often adversarial decisions about water,” according to the award presentation.
Cynthia Schultz, the outgoing NAIOP chairwoman, said many of the 60 entries submitted for consideration for this year’s awards are incorporating green elements in some capacity, even if they aren’t going for LEED certification. “The new builds, the renovations, are more energy-efficient. That makes good sense from a cost-savings standpoint” over time, she said.
Schultz, president of Bradbury Stamm, said she also noticed in the nomination documents that “nearly every one of them mentioned some window or natural light feature. “A phrase that I kept seeing was ‘floor-to-ceiling to glass walls,’ particularly in the office category.”
Of the 60 entries, 49 of the projects were finalists. The finalists that did not receive an Eagle Award received awards of merit.
The winning projects are featured throughout this edition of Business Outlook.