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Insight: Support ‘uniquely Rio Rancho’ City Center project

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Mayor Gregg Hull: This project “would be uniquely Rio Rancho.”

City Councilor Bob Tyler: “Let’s get it done, and get it done right.”

Those comments arose at a recent Rio Rancho Governing Body work session, called to discuss a City Center “Campus Park and Skyroom.” The project was first proposed in 2017 but stalled when an initial bid request brought in only one response, which was 55 percent over budget due to rising construction costs and limited availability of contractors in an active local building market.

Cheryl Everett

As is often the case, plans for economic development in Rio Rancho were running aground on funding issues.

City Center has a checkered history. Construction on the Santa Ana Star Center arena and plans for nearby retail/hospitality/education development were in full swing when the country’s 2008 recession slowed most metro-area development to a crawl.

More recently, expansion of educational and medical facilities in City Center has sparked renewed interest in building out city-owned and private properties along the Paseo del Volcan metropolitan corridor. UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center, other clinical facilities and University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College educational programs took root and expanded.

But funding hurdles remained for Campus Park.

Then, recently and unexpectedly, the State of New Mexico granted the city a $1.75 million one-time gross receipts tax adjustment to compensate for a major local food retailer’s GRT under-payment. That credit offered hope of moving forward on Campus Park and its multi-purpose performing arts space known as “Skyroom.”

A $750,000 mid-fiscal-year city budget adjustment, using a portion of the unexpected GRT revenue, is required to move the project forward as originally envisioned. The governing body will vote on the budget adjustment at its Jan. 22 meeting.

If that item is approved, Campus Park could break ground in April, with an approximate nine-month completion timetable.

The estimated cost for Phase 1 (site preparation) is approximately $4 million, which includes the proposed mid-year budget adjustment. Phase 2, at an estimated cost of $1.8 million, would be dedicated to more outdoor activity areas as funds become available.

Governing Body approval in January is not guaranteed. At the December work session, one councilor opposed the project.

Another favored a park with no Skyroom at this stage. One councilor was absent from the work session.

Another councilor asked questions but voiced no opinion. The mayor and two other councilors supported the park and Skyroom.

Many Rio Ranchoans regularly voice frustration with the slow pace of economic development in City Center. Campus Park would be an amenity for college students, new businesses and their employees, as well as employees and visitors to City Center medical facilities.

To help spur City Center growth, tell your City Councilor you support a mid-year budget adjustment to launch the Campus Park project. Better still, attend the council meeting Jan. 22 and speak out for a more vibrant, “uniquely Rio Rancho” development.

(Cheryl Everett is a Rio Rancho resident and former city councilor.)

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