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UNM among options for 24/7 shelter, soccer field

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque has yet to select a site for its planned 24/7 homeless shelter, nor have officials publicly revealed a short list of potential locations for the project that stands to get $14 million in Tuesday’s election.

Nor is there a location tapped for the city’s planned soccer facility – a place the New Mexico United professional team would use for practice.

But it now looks like the University of New Mexico could be an option for the projects.

Doug Brown, president of the UNM Board of Regents, said in an interview there have been preliminary discussions about using the university’s South Campus land. But he said such projects would have to be vetted by university committees that haven’t broached either topic.

“It’s not there yet. But it is one of the possibilities,” he said.

“I personally would love to find a solution to the homeless facility, but I’m not sure where it could go. We certainly want to do our share in trying to help, whether it’s by providing services or doing research on the project and working with the city. But as far as having a facility located on our property, it has not been given active consideration yet. … That’s not to say that it won’t be.”

Brown said there are officials at UNM who would want United’s practice facility built on the South Campus, where it could also host UNM club sports, including soccer and rugby.

“We have to see. What would UNM chip in, they pitch in the land. What does the United Team, having done very well this year, what can they do? What can the city do? It becomes a negotiation,” Brown said. “It’s pretty fluid and it’s pretty early, but those are some of the possibilities being kicked about.”

A spokeswoman for Mayor Tim Keller said this week there have been no “formal” discussions with UNM about the locations for either project.

“Naturally, casual discussions about major projects like the homeless shelter and a soccer complex are routine and common with all of our stakeholders,” Jessie Damazyn said in an email.

Asked if the city would consider building either project on UNM’s South Campus, Damazyn said “it’s too early in the process to speculate on that.”

UNM’s South Campus is around University Boulevard and Avenida Cesar Chavez. It stretches west close to Interstate 25 and includes the university’s athletic stadiums, Lobo Village and a technology park. The university for years has been considering ways to court additional development in the area, though multiple past attempts have fizzled.

UNM is currently pursuing a tax increment development district, or TIDD, for the area – a financing mechanism in which some of the tax revenue generated by growth could flow back to the developer for infrastructure costs it incurred.

Keller is asking the Albuquerque City Council to OK a resolution expressing “non-binding intent to form a TIDD” on South Campus.

“This is an exciting opportunity to deepen the City’s collaboration and partnerships with the State’s flagship university and the City’s important neighbor, UNM,” Keller wrote in an Oct. 15 memo to City Council President Klarissa Peña.

Brown said the university could consider trying to bring retail, hotel and other entertainment options to the area, as well as using the space to develop priorities for City Hall.

Keller has identified a centralized, around-the-clock shelter as one of the primary elements in his effort to combat homelessness. The new venue would replace an existing city shelter on the far West Side.

The city is asking voters to approve $14 million for the project as part of $128.5 million in general obligation bonds on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Keller’s administration has said it did not make sense to begin the site selection process until the funding is approved, but the uncertainty has caused angst in some communities who fear the project is destined for their neighborhoods.

The soccer complex is part of $29 million in sports- and tourism-related projects the City Council approved earlier this month, and will be funded by issuing new lodgers’ tax bonds. The package included $3.5 million for the multi-field venue without a specific site, though the Council specifically noted that it wanted two locations studied, neither of which are UNM.

“The two locations that we at the Council talked with the (Keller) administration about out loud were either Mesa del Sol or the West Side,” Councilor Pat Davis said this week.

New Mexico United owner Peter Trevisani said Friday he had not heard of UNM’s South Campus as a potential location, though he said he would not object. The team rented space at UNM for the first half of its season, but has since practiced on Bernailllo County-managed fields at Mesa del Sol and expects to be out there at least another year. He said the county is building a new field at the site to better suit the team’s needs, but a long-term solution requires a locker room/team meeting facility.

Currently, United is leasing office space across the street from its practice field for those purposes.

The city says United would use the facility for practice, but other users could include the New Mexico Activities Association, which runs high school championships and other regional tournaments.

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