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New Marriott in ABQ to include Ronald McDonald House

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Dignitaries gather under a tent for the Monday groundbreaking of the Highlands Marriott SpringHill Suites hotel, which will contain an entire floor dedicated as a Ronald McDonald House. A sky bridge will join the hotel to the Presbyterian Hospital, directly across Central Avenue. (Greg Sorber, Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new Marriott hotel being built across the street from the main Presbyterian Hospital will feature something no other newly built hotel has ever contained – a Ronald McDonald House, which provides a home-like setting for families of children who are receiving medical care requiring that they remain close to the hospital.

A Monday groundbreaking ceremony was held on the site of what will be the Highlands Marriott SpringHill Suites, part of a metropolitan redevelopment project that will eventually revitalize a once blighted 12-acre, five-block parcel of land directly north of Presbyterian Hospital.

The land is jointly owned by a group that includes Presbyterian Hospital, Titan Development and Maestas Development Group. Titan and Maestas are developing the 12 acre parcel.

The first phase, which has a construction timeline of about 14 months and a cost of about $26 million, includes the 118-room hotel, a sky bridge over Central Avenue connecting the hotel to the hospital, as well as underground and ground level parking.

The sky bridge from the hospital’s lobby will connect to the second floor of the hotel, and “the Ronald McDonald House will occupy the entire third floor,” said Jessica Wright, the new chief executive officer for Ronald McDonald House Charities of New Mexico. A dedicated elevator bay in the hotel’s lobby will carry people to the second floor sky bridge and the third floor Ronald McDonald House.

The new Ronald McDonald House “will have 20 guest rooms and program space, including a living room, library, indoor and outdoor playground, technology nooks, community kitchen, a laundry room – essentially all the comforts of home,” she said.

In October 1982, the first Ronald McDonald House opened at 1011 Yale NE. “Since then more than 36,000 families have stayed with us and we provided a comfortable and supportive home environment for them,” Wright said.

“We started with just eight guest rooms and then added 10 bedrooms not even three years later because the need was already so great. Twenty years later we had another expansion that was completed in 2008 – 30 guest rooms providing more than 10,000 room nights every year.”

The existing Ronald McDonald House has again reached a point where the need for its services exceeds the ability to offer placement. The new hotel-located facility will provide space for an additional 640 families annually, or a 67 percent capacity increase, Wright said.

One other hotel in the United States, a retrofitted space in an existing hotel in Portland, Oregon, also has a Ronald McDonald House. The one in Albuquerque will be the first one in the world designed and incorporated into a newly built hotel, she said.

David Campbell, director of the city’s Planning Department, said the city’s designation of the area as a metropolitan redevelopment area allows for the developers to receive a seven year property tax abatement. “It does not involve any credit or funding from the city.”

The project was done with input from area residents, businesses and Presbyterian Hospital. “I never got a 311 call about this development project, I never got any constituent services complaints and I never got a neighborhood association complaint,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.

He called the project an intersection of “neighborhood development, economic development, job creation and health care,” that will “transform this section of Route 66.”

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Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller speaks with Jessica Wright, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of New Mexico during a Monday groundbreaking for the Marriott SpringHill Suites hotel, in which an entire floor will serve as a Ronald McDonald House. (Greg Sorber, Albuquerque Journal)

The estimated five-year construction timeline to build the rest of the property will include a restaurant and retail space, a grocery store and two apartment buildings with 320 units in all. The fully developed Highlands project will have a value of more than $120 million, will have created about 1,450 construction jobs and 560 permanent jobs, said Steve Maestas, chief executive officer of Maestas Development Group.

The 12-acre metropolitan redevelopment site was originally platted in the late 1800s, when the area was called the Albuquerque Highlands, Maestas said. In the 1930s, “the name morphed into the Heights and Southeast Heights, so today we pay homage to the original name – Highlands.”

In the early 2000s, he said, the city initiated a program to shut down drug and crack houses in the community – “in fact, the first drug house that was closed was right here on this property.”

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Steve Maestas, CEO of Maestas Development Group, gives a history of the 12-acre metropolitan redevelopment during Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Highlands Marriott SpringHill Suites. (Greg Sorber, Albuquerque Journal)

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