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City working to begin Rail Yards cleanup

Interior of the Albuquerque Rail Yards, photographed in 2011. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In an effort to resuscitate the project designed to breathe new life into the historic Albuquerque Rail Yards, city officials told members of the Rail Yards advisory board on Thursday they are working to begin implementing necessary environmental remediation efforts.

David Campbell, director of the city's planning department, told board members that city staff is preparing an application to the New Mexico Environment Department's voluntary remediation program, which would outline the scope of the work required.

Campbell said the city anticipated submitting the application in early fall, either as sole applicant or as a co-applicant with California-based Samitaur Constructs, the master developer for the site.

“The time for doing something different on this project has come,” Campbell told board members. “The mayor, I would tell you on his behalf, is very interested in this project and committed to seeing it move forward from what it is today to actually becoming a vibrant part of the Downtown and the Barelas area.”

Campbell said the city is working to identify potential capital improvement revenue sources.

The rail yards lie just south of Downtown, between the Barelas and South Broadway neighborhoods. The city bought the site in 2007 for about $8.5 million, with a commitment that redevelopment would include some mixed-income housing and a permanent place for the Wheels Museum.

The site consists of 18 surviving buildings erected between 1915 and 1925. The shops were one of four major maintenance facilities constructed by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

The city has upgraded one building, the blacksmith shop, where the Rail Yards Market has taken place since 2014. It has also spent more than $1.5 million on site improvements and due diligence reports.

The city is focused on developing the northern portion of the site, Campbell said, and is looking to Samitaur to provide a business and concept plan that would include projected costs, an infrastructure plan, and a list of potential public and private sector uses.

Board members voted to submit a formal statement to the Albuquerque Development Commission, which is expected to consider an annual assessment of the project during its meeting next week and determine whether Samitaur has employed reasonable diligence over the past year, part of the development and disposition agreement with the city entered in 2014.

City Councilor Isaac Benton, chairman of the advisory board, said members expressed its sense of urgency in moving the project forward in the statement.

“Once again, we've done that,” Benton said of the statement. “We appreciate the new administration's focus on the rail yards and acknowledgement that it's the city's responsibility to do the environmental remediation, and that we should not be going back and forth about that, and have a misunderstanding that it's the developers' responsibility.”

Benton said he hoped ADC members would also sense urgency and set deadlines for the project.



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