City of Albuquerque may purchase, redevelop ‘blighted’ Franklin Plaza - Albuquerque Journal

City of Albuquerque may purchase, redevelop ‘blighted’ Franklin Plaza

A now-abandoned bingo hall in Franklin Plaza. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

The city of Albuquerque has made an offer to purchase Franklin Plaza, City Councilor Renée Grout confirmed Tuesday. Plans to redevelop the 10-acre East Central property include a new fire station, an urgent care and workforce housing.

The potential purchase has taken more than a year of planning between the property owner, Waken LP, and city officials. Scott Cilke, a spokesperson for the Department of Municipal Development, said in an email to the Journal that the city was still negotiating with the owner, but expected to wrap up talks in the coming weeks.

Grout said the city is waiting on an environmental study before sealing the deal.

The study has the potential to stall the project. The shopping center on Central and Juan Tabo once housed a dry cleaner; consequently, the land may need soil remediation. It’s uncertain how much remediation would cost or who would be responsible for decontaminating the property.

Grout, who represents the Southeast Heights and Foothills and has lived in the area for more than 40 years, said the property has been neglected for decades, after Furrs grocery store, once an anchor tenant, left the space.

“It’s been a blighted piece of land for many, many, many years,” Grout said. “Back when I was in high school, we … got our groceries there. It has not been good since.”

A person walks past boarded-up windows at Franklin Plaza on Juan Tabo and Central. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

In the years since Furrs’ departure, the area has hosted a revolving door of businesses, including a bingo hall, a bar and a dollar store. Small restaurants and mom-and-pop shops have also fled the area, including Vietnamese eatery Saigon Sandwich.

The shopping center gained notoriety in 2015 when one of its tenants – Day Spa and Nail – became a filming location on “Better Call Saul.”

In 2014, more than a decade after Furrs left its roughly 40,000 square-foot space in the plaza, ranch and farm retailer Big R planned to take over the vacant storefront. But by 2015, the deal had fallen through.

A year later, there was a plan for redevelopment. Heslin Holdings, a California-based real estate firm, partnered with the Waken family, which had long owned the property. In 2016, the pair planned to give the area a facelift and rebrand the area as “Route 66 Plaza.”

But Franklin Plaza remained Franklin Plaza. In 2020, the property was approved for a use change, which would allow for large-scale destination retail and high-density housing, among other new uses.

A vacant space in Franklin Plaza. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Additional housing is crucial for the airmen who work at the nearby Kirtland Air Force Base, Grout said.

“There’s a housing shortage,” Grout said. “It would always be nice to get some more housing, and workforce housing especially.”

The city plans to knock down one retail strip on the northern side of the shopping center to make room for a three-acre fire station, Grout said. She hopes that part of the remaining seven acres will be used for local restaurants, retail and most importantly, an urgent care.

“There’s a real need for it,” Grout said. “We don’t have an urgent care in that area.”

The Department of Municipal Development and Albuquerque Fire Rescue were unable to provide details at present about the funding and cost of the proposed fire station. In an email, Cilke said additional details would be available once the negotiation process is complete.

Franklin Plaza falls into Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency territory. Grout said she hopes the area is revitalized ahead of the Route 66 centennial in 2026.

“We need to bring back the East Central area,” Grout said.


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