Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
The last two decades have seen millions of square feet of development go up on the West Side of the Albuquerque metro area.
In the area known as Upper Petroglyphs, near Interstate 40 and Atrisco Vista, none of it has happened by chance.
Recent developments in the area – including ongoing construction of a new Amazon fulfillment center, millions of dollars in new infrastructure and plans for housing developments – are all the result of a decades-long plan dating back to the mid-’90s.
While the Amazon fulfillment center is the latest news, the area has been home to industrial warehouses since the mid-2000s when Tempur-Pedic opened its 750,000-square-foot facility. Shamrock Foods Co. followed suit several years later with the purchase of 45 acres for its warehouse and distribution center. And more recently, a FedEx Ground distribution center expanded to a 183,000-square-foot facility farther east on Daytona Road in 2015.
Ultimately, county leaders envision an area rife with industrial parks and neighborhoods with open spaces and commercial plots sprinkled throughout – and, perhaps most significantly, many more West Side jobs for Bernalillo County residents.
Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, who represents the northwestern-most district in the county, said Amazon’s new center is a major step in that direction.
“It’s hugely significant,” she said. “What it does is it provides jobs for the West Side. I mean, that’s been the biggest pushback in terms of frustration of development over there, is that we have a lot of rooftops, but not enough jobs.”
The Upper Petroglyphs Sector plan, developed jointly in 1995 by Bernalillo County and Albuquerque officials, laid out zoning plans for the continued development of the neighborhood, which covers the area north of Interstate 40 from roughly Atrisco Vista Boulevard to just east of Arroyo Vista Boulevard.
The plan, which loosely guided development through zoning, covers areas in both Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. But the introduction of the Integrated Development Ordinance in 2017 removed the specific plan for the city with the creation of a more uniform plan for all of Albuquerque. The Albuquerque segment of the 1995 plan includes several housing developments and the Nusenda Community Stadium.
For Bernalillo County, the plan continues to be used and updated regularly in an area that is still mostly undeveloped.
Slow and steady
Though development of the area that falls in Albuquerque’s city bounds has mostly been completed, the Upper Petroglyph section of Bernalillo County still has a way to go before the pre-millennium vision is realized, said Enrico Gradi, deputy county manager for Bernalillo County.
Gradi said the steady, decades-long approach is finally paying off, since major companies look for regularity in planning, because it shows that cities are thinking about their long-term layouts.
Commissioner O’Malley said Amazon chose the site specifically because it was near I-40, the FedEx distribution center and near the Double Eagle airport.
“There was no huge recruitment effort to get (Amazon) here,” she said. “… They felt it was the perfect location for them to have their building there.”
Jobs to follow?
Right now, much of the construction in the area has been industrial, but Gradi said permits are being filed for construction of single family housing, and zoning allows for multifamily housing in the area that will be more affordable and can appeal to workers in the industrial areas.
Gradi says development of the area is halfway done with most of the development falling inside of Albuquerque, and he expects the area to be fully developed within 20 years.
O’Malley – who recently sponsored an approved $6.5 million infrastructure request for the Atrisco Vista corridor – said she’s anticipating major growth of the area.
She said she anticipates other large companies will follow in Amazon’s steps by also moving into that area.
That’s important because of the way the West Side has historically developed. Gradi said for years the West Side was dense with housing, but lacked employers and other amenities like retail and entertainment options.
“The overall discussion going way back is that we want to try when we can, where we can to have a balance of jobs and housing, because, you know, there’s only so many river crossings,” Gradi said.
The Upper Petroglyph plan seeks to help remedy those past mistakes by creating an appropriate jobs to housing ratio – though Gradi cautioned the zoning plan itself is not a guarantee for development.
“Where the county stands is that we feel very good that we have this plan and others that provide a framework and a direction and predictability for future development in these areas,” Gradi said. “And we feel good that we have a balance of uses.”