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County considering buying Alvarado Square building

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The asking price on Alvarado Square – the building that once housed the Public Service Co. of New Mexico – has fallen to $6 million, and Bernalillo County is still considering a move out of City Hall.

The County Commission recently directed county staff to develop some options for financing a purchase of Alvarado Square and making renovations there.

But the tone of the discussion suggested commissioners simply wanted enough information to explore their options, rather than commit themselves to buying the place.

The county administration didn’t make a recommendation one way or another.

There was no deadline, but Commissioner Art De La Cruz asked the staff to provide answers quickly.

“In the fluid market,” he said, “we want to take advantage of time.”

Alvarado Square, which spans across Silver Avenue in Downtown Albuquerque, was on the market for $11 million in 2013, when county officials seriously considered the possibility of buying it. Negotiations hit an impasse.

The county has considered other buildings, too, but talk of leaving City Hall diminished after the county endured investment losses when it restructured its portfolio to reduce risk.

The county’s operating budget is also incredibly tight, with tens of millions of dollars in adjustments needed to keep it balanced for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Even if the purchase of Alvarado Square cost only $6 million, the county would have plenty of other costs. A staff analysis estimated the county would need about $21 million altogether to cover the purchase, renovations and the acquisition of parking.

The county now has employees spread among a half dozen buildings in the Downtown area – not just in City Hall, which the county shares with Albuquerque’s municipal government and water authority.

The county estimates it could sell the Downtown buildings it already owns for about $11 million. That includes selling the county’s interest in City Hall.

That leaves a net cost of around $10 million for a move to Alvarado Square, according to the county.

For years, the county has tried to find a spot where it can consolidate more of its employees and services into one location. The goal is to make the government easier to navigate for customers who do business with more than one county department.

Staying in its current buildings isn’t cheap either, county officials say. They estimate the buildings they own now need about $20 million in renovations.