Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Funding for a film production center, a space for students with children, improvements to facilities for students learning trades and a collection of other projects will be voted on later this fall during a Central New Mexico Community College bond election.
The college, which has more than 20,000 students, is asking voters for permission to borrow $84 million and issue negotiable general obligation bonds for a series of projects. If approved, the projects won’t raise taxes in the college district, which includes residents of the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho public school districts, said CNM President Katharine Winograd.
The bonds will be the primary source of funding for 11 future CNM projects worth about $111 million.
The election is Nov. 5. Early voting starts Oct. 8.
The biggest-ticket item on the project list is more than $37 million in construction and renovation at facilities for students learning trades and applied technologies.
“Our need to develop a workforce for middle-skill jobs is overwhelming in our country and certainly overwhelming in our community. CNM has a 52-year history of being the place in New Mexico … that focuses on creating that workforce,” Winograd said in an interview. “But we’ve found that our buildings are old and not meeting our needs.”
Winograd said CNM students studying for careers in health care, information technolgy, welding, construction, electrical work, plumbing and truck driving need renovated classroom space.
“This part of education is very hands-on, very lab-intensive, very equipment-intensive,” she said. “We talk a lot about higher education going more and more online, but the kind of education we’re talking about is intensely hands-on. Learning how to weld can’t be done online.”
The other most expensive item among projects up for vote is a new student services building worth an estimated $32 million. Winograd said that unlike a student union building at a four-year university, the building envisioned at CNM would be a small-space setting to link students with aid and support.
Other projects include $7.5 million for the design and construction of a space for CNM students with children on the South Valley campus and $4 million for a main entrance and gathering place at the college’s entrance on University Boulevard.
Film center at Rail Yards
CNM plans to use a fraction of the money to cover part of the first phase of the creation of a Film Production Center of Excellence – a project that has a total estimated cost of $7 million.
The project could be crucial to redevelopment of the Rail Yards if the center ends up being built there.
Leland Consulting Group, a company hired by the city of Albuquerque to study the financial feasibility of redeveloping the site, said the film center would be a “game changer” for the more than 100-year-old site currently used for special events such as a weekly market. Brian Vannerman, who wrote the report for Leland, urged city officials to “do everything in their power” to make the CNM film center come to be.
“CNM can be one catalyst that pulls other innovative tenants and employers with it,” he said.
But such a redevelopment project at the historic site could cost between $50 and $80 million, and there are other reasons, such as the cost or rent at the site and a lack of new office or industrial development in the area that call to question the viability of redeveloping the historic site, according to the report.
“We support all of CNM’s efforts to boost the film economy and help develop the Rail Yards,” Jessie Damazyn, a spokeswoman for the city, said in a statement.
Winograd said that CNM, which offers several degrees and certificates for students interested in pursuing careers in the film industry, is hopeful the film center will be built in the Rail Yards. But she said that the school wants to grow its film programs and be ready for Netflix and other studios that are looking to open in Albuquerque.
CNM documents said the center will be at the Rail Yards “and/or other CNM facilities.”
“I would say I’m 75% sure that this money will go to us being able to create a really wonderful place” at the Rail Yards, Winograd said. “But my little 25% in the back of my head is saying I need this college to be ready for the industry when Netflix is here and other companies are moving in. Our biggest job is making sure that we are meeting the demands of that industry.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity at the Rail Yards but being a realist about making sure we have our program prepared no matter where it ends up being.”