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New retail plans add to Sawmill momentum


Rendering for the old BlueLinx building at 1820 Bellamah NW in the Sawmill District of Albuquerque. (Courtesy Jim Long)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ponderosa Brewing Co. started pouring beer in the Sawmill District in September.

Mama’s Minerals set up shop in the neighborhood in October.

And now Albuquerque businessman Jim Long wants to keep the retail momentum flowing with a new project at 18th Street and Bellamah NW. Long will begin an “adaptive reuse” effort early next year that will transform an empty, 52,000-square-foot warehouse into a mixed-use property that could accommodate food, beverage and related tenants.

Long, CEO of Heritage Hotels and Resorts Inc., said back-of-house operations for his hospitality properties — including nearby Hotel Albuquerque and its forthcoming neighbor, Hotel Chaco — will take up about 30,000 square feet of the building. The rest will go to retail.

“It’s a nondescript blue metal warehouse building right now, but we’re going to give it a nice facelift,” Long said of the building, which will be redesigned by Ben Anderson. “It will have a new appearance. We’ve been talking to a number of potential retailers including eateries, breweries and other retail-type tenants like that.”

The building, which Long owns through his Sawmill Bellamah Properties LLC, once housed Georgia-Pacific. It still bears the signage of another former tenant — building products distributor BlueLinx — though it will eventually get a new name.sawmill_map

The building’s new use reflects a larger shift underway in the area, Long said. Sawmill, once a predominantly industrial neighborhood, has seen a residential boom, while the new Hotel Chaco will add another 118 rooms to the area in 2016.

Brett Hills, the commercial real estate broker marketing the building, said he sees the forthcoming retail tenants serving not just Sawmill but also what he calls “under-served” areas like the North Valley, Downtown and Country Club district.

“We ultimately see the Sawmill District as a gathering place for people city-wide,” said Hills, a broker with NAI Maestas & Ward.

Hills said he’s had interest from potential tenants already and that the project will have a local character rather than become an outpost for national chains. He expects to begin signing deals in early 2015, and Long said the first tenants could be in place by spring or summer.

Mama’s Minerals moved to Sawmill in October from the Courtyards shopping center at Lomas and San Mateo. Company president Laura Randolph said she’s been “very happy” with the first three months in the new setting. While she chose the area for its proximity to the museums — with Mama’s Minerals’ selection of beads, gems and fossils “we’re like a museum store,” she said — Randolph said having more retail development crop up around her will be a bonus.

“I would sit on this street as the only retail store and be happy if nothing else was built here,” she said. “(But) the fact that (Long’s) building up the whole area is wonderful, and it’s only going to be better and better.”