City-state land swap means no safe outdoor space at Menaul property - Albuquerque Journal

City-state land swap means no safe outdoor space at Menaul property

A vacant lot at 1250 Menaul Boulevard NE that the City of Albuquerque traded to the state for two other properties. The southern part of the lot had been previously proposed as a safe space for the homeless population. (Liam DeBonis/Journal)

The City of Albuquerque has nixed the waning possibility of a safe outdoor space or trash drop-off station along Menaul Boulevard.

Instead, the land is a key element in a property swap with the state that the city says will help expand the Rail Trail and provide a larger, more-accessible space for Solid Waste operations.

In turn, the state gets the Menaul site for a public safety headquarters to replace the central New Mexico offices — including the State Police office in Albuquerque — and provide a modernized location for law enforcement training and operations.

State Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, said the headquarters will also send a message.

“I think this is going to lend itself to really telling the bad guys, ‘Hey, we’re serious about this. We’re on top of this, we have more efficient operations,’” he said.

Even better, Padilla said, the values of the traded properties are “almost even-steven.”

The city swapped the land at 1250 Menaul NE, just west of Interstate 25, for the two state-owned properties at 3401 Pan American NE, along Interstate 25 near Candelaria, and 401 Commercial NE, just northeast of the Convention Center.

Mayor Tim Keller, in a statement, called the trade a “win-win.”

“It brings closure to several key land questions for City services and public spaces in the city core,” he said. “There will be no safe outdoor space or transfer station on Menaul.”

The chances of a safe outdoor space, an organized location where unhoused people can sleep in cars and tents, became more slim last month when a hearing officer decided the city should not have approved a safe outdoor space for that site in the first place.

The hearing officer recommended the City Council, which has the ultimate authority, reverse the approval but the safe outdoor space operator pulled the application before it got to the council.

The city wrote in a news release Saturday that providers “may still apply for safe outdoor spaces at other locations in the city.”

In January, the city was eyeing the same Menaul property for a future garbage transfer station, where trash trucks drop off loads to be taken by larger vehicles to the landfill. But soon neighbors began to voice concerns with that idea.

The release on Saturday states the Pan American site is better for the transfer station, allowing easier access for large city vehicles and presents “an ideal place for Solid Waste Department operations.”

Meanwhile, the city says the property on Commercial will play “an important role” for the future of the Rail Trail — described as “a transformational pedestrian-friendly path” connecting the Rail Yards to Downtown, the Sawmill District and Old Town.

Padilla could not give an estimated cost of the public safety headquarters, which he said is still in the planning phase, but the money to build it will come from recent budget surpluses.

He said, aside from modernized facilities, the site gives law enforcement fast access to the Big I, where they can head any direction in response to unfolding situations.

“We have a giant crime problem here in New Mexico,” Padilla said, “and this is going to help in a tremendous way to positively affect that issue.”

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