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City takes control of the Rail Yards

Mayor Tim Keller tears up a contract with the previous developer of the Albuquerque Rail Yards as he announces that the city has taken over control of the site at a news conference Sunday during the market held on the property every week. Rail Yards Market manager Alaska Piper, left, applauds the announcement. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The city is taking over efforts to remediate and revitalize the historic Albuquerque Rail Yards after breaking ties with the out-of-state contractor tasked with redeveloping the property.

During a news conference Sunday at the Rail Yards Market, Mayor Tim Keller tore apart a contract between the city and Samitaur Constructs, a California-based contractor hired in 2012 to develop the site.

“We have decided to take back control over the Rail Yards. That’s right, the city’s taking it back,” Keller told reporters and a crowd of market-goers. “And so it’s gonna be a long road ahead, but it’s gonna be our road. It’s gonna be a path we take together.”

Keller said the city will, for now, stick to a previously approved “master vision” for the 27.3 acre property, but it will break the plan into phases. The first priority after extensive environmental remediation will be to “activate” the building adjacent to the already-updated blacksmith shop, which is home to the weekly market. A second updated building will mean additional event space and market expansion.

“We’re also going to look at how it might be a workspace for the creative economy during the day and not on the weekends, and then at night and on the weekends we’ll use it for event and community space,” Keller said.

As far as the market goes, manager Alaska Piper said she will have no trouble filling that extra space. The event receives around 500 applications from potential vendors each year, and the blacksmith shop can hold about 110 booths.

To make that a reality, Keller plans to ask for help from the City Council, the state Legislature and the governor. He estimated that remediation would cost around $8 million and rehabbing the second building would be another “couple of million dollars.”

The announcement follows a finding by the Albuquerque Development Commission in July that Samitaur had not employed reasonable diligence for a second consecutive year, which meant the city could terminate its contract with the company.

Keller said the city is also switching management of the facility over to SMG, the company contracted to run the Albuquerque Convention Center, in hopes of increasing its use.

“Eventually we are gonna get this place to be the community treasure that we know it is,” Keller said.

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