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County weighs deal for Downtown grocery

2nd and Silver-proposed Grocery 2012Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Bernalillo County has agreed to consider economic incentives aimed at bringing a grocery store to the Downtown core.

The County Commission on Tuesday took the first step toward negotiating a bond deal that would give the developer a $900,000 break on gross-receipts taxes during construction. Final consideration will come in August.

The city of Albuquerque is also working on incentives for the project.

Mayor Richard Berry started the process last year by suggesting the city would provide an acre of land it owns at Second and Silver SW as the “carrot” to interest developers. His administration is negotiating a development agreement with Geltmore LLC, which won a request for proposals.

The project is expected to involve a 12,000-square-foot grocery store – about the size of a Trader Joe’s and twice as big as what was originally planned. It would sit on the ground floor of a four-story building that would also have 61 apartment units and space for retail uses.

Berry said Tuesday that he’s pleased the size of the store has doubled from the initial plans for only 6,000 square feet.

“A grocery store will be a great catalyst for Downtown,” Berry said in a written statement.

Paul Silverman of Geltmore said the county bond deal is a key part of making the project work.

“They’re an important part of our financial structure,” he said.

Commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of the “inducement resolution” needed to move forward with negotiating the industrial-revenue-bond deal. But they suggested they will take a close look at the proposal when it comes back for final approval.

Commissioner Wayne Johnson said he is concerned about the fairness of the county helping create competition for other local businesses, such as the Lowe’s Market at Lomas and 11th NW.

“I have to say it gives me a little bit of heartburn,” he said.

Bringing a full-service grocery store into the heart of Downtown has been a longtime goal of redevelopment boosters. They say the Lowe’s on the north side of Lomas is too far to walk for residents who live in the middle of Downtown.

The site offered by the city is at Second and Silver SW. It’s worth about $575,000 and could be sold, rented or leased to Geltmore as part of a development agreement.

The city hasn’t committed to any specific incentives yet. A final agreement could be done in about two weeks, according to the mayor’s office.

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