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Consultant offers 3 Rail Yards redevelopment scenarios

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Leland Consulting Group’s most recent draft report to the city of Albuquerque says the ideal Rail Yards redevelopment strategy will include a mix of uses.

It provides three different development scenarios of varying levels of density, but notes that redevelopment will occur over many years, making it impossible to predict the exact mix that would work.

All scenarios call for “adaptive reuse” of buildings on the property’s north side, which the report calls the Rail Yards’ “front door.” Proposed uses include Central New Mexico Community College’s film center, the existing Rail Yards Market, and new retail, restaurant and commercial tenants.

Chicago artist Theaster Gates recently kickstarted an effort to redevelop one of those northern buildings – the fire station – by pledging $11,000 of his own money and helping raise another $14,000.

“It could be a calling card to the rest of the complex,” he said during a late-June presentation in Albuquerque.

Leland recommends 10,000 to 20,000 square feet of retail space in the Rail Yards over the next decade, and a focus on food and beverage tenants, vendors related to film or rail travel, existing area businesses looking to expand or “small, local vendors that build on the Rail Yards’ unique, historic and gritty character.”

Leland suggests using large existing buildings near the Rail Yards’ center – the Boiler Shop and the Machine Shop, which alone has nearly 4 acres of enclosed floor space – for things that would require less renovation, such as concerts, festivals and other special events; film productions; or sports, like soccer or pickleball.

But two of its scenarios suggest eventually constructing buildings within those buildings to create 110,000 to 200,000 square feet of employment space. Leland also says that is more space than likely needed over the next decade.

“There are numerous benefits to this approach,” the report says of keeping the large spaces intact. “It retains large ‘atrium’ areas for public visitation, events, etc. It manages the capital and operating costs, and energy required for space conditioning.”

The report’s various scenarios also include 65 to 160 mixed-income housing units near the Rail Yards’ southern end.

But Albuquerque officials cautioned last week that Leland’s draft report is “still very preliminary.”

“Gathering input from the Rail Yards Advisory Board and the public is part of the scope of the contractor’s work,” Albuquerque’s Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael said in a statement. “The recommendations will not be finalized without public input. However, even this preliminary information is important for the City to have as we consider the development of the Rail Yards.”

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