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City, UNM to proceed with development talks

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico may soon have a new lure for developers looking to build stores, offices and more on its South Campus.

The Albuquerque City Council on Monday unanimously approved a resolution that enables formal negotiations for a special tax-based financing mechanism to cover the infrastructure needs around the UNM athletic venues and Science & Technology Park.

The university and its regent-owned nonprofit corporation, Lobo Development, have for years worked to spur new activity in that area but officials say the costs associated with roads and utilities have thwarted previous attempts.

“Each of these efforts (in the past) have failed, I believe, because of a lack of comprehensive, integrated vision and more importantly, a cohesive implementation strategy to address the significant infrastructure challenges of the area,” Kim Murphy of Lobo Development told the Council on Monday. “Thus this premier area near the metro core remains an undeveloped eyesore and skipped over infill location.”

UNM’s current vision includes new commercial and retail space, parking garages and more. The new activity could generate up to $516 million in new tax revenue over 25 years, according to Murphy’s presentation to the Council.

It is seeking city approval for a Tax Increment Development District, or TIDD, that would route some of that back to the development to pay some of the associated infrastructure expenses.

“Joint efforts between the state’s largest city and its largest higher education institution help us accomplish our mutual goals of job creation and economic development,” Teresa Costantinidis, UNM Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration, told the Council on Monday. “These types of efforts are vital for improving the quality of life for all our citizens and in particular those in underserved populations who desire access to greater opportunities.”

The Monday vote allows UNM and the city to work together on the development agreement. The parties’ goal is to have the UNM Regents and City Council give the final OK by mid-2020.

UNM will also seek approval from Bernalillo County and the state of New Mexico since the TIDD would include taxes that normally go to those entities as well.

Councilor Isaac Benton, who co-sponsored Monday’s resolution with Pat Davis, said it’s “difficult to just get good food” in that part of Albuquerque and said he hoped the plans included a grocery store.

Davis said both the business community and the residents of the area are interested in new development around South Campus.

“I know retailers are already talking to us about looking for new locations there,” he said. “There’s just not a lot of open space in the Southeast (Albuquerque), but there’s certainly a market.”

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