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New construction on tap for Old Town

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Renderings show the planned new buildings being proposed for what is now a parking lot in Old Town. (Courtesy of RBA Architecture)

New construction in Old Town?

That’s the plan for a parking lot in one of Albuquerque’s most visited historic districts.

Property owner Joyce Battaglia wants to develop two new buildings — one measuring 2,500 square feet, the other 3,000 — in what is currently a private parking area just south of the Albuquerque Museum and west of the city’s museum lot. The buildings will cater to office and retail tenants and, Battaglia hopes, drive additional traffic to Old Town. Battaglia — whose 2.4-acre Plaza Hacienda includes three existing buildings — said her project dovetails nicely with other area developments, like businessman Jim Long’s efforts on the other side of Mountain Road. Long’s new five-story Hotel Chaco is under construction at Bellamah and 20th.

“We’re trying to rejuvenate Old Town so we can keep our tourists here instead of Santa Fe,” said Battaglia, who has upgraded the existing buildings and, in 2014, greatly expanded her Old Town restaurant, Backstreet Grill.

Because the site in question sits within the Old Town Historic Zone, Battaglia’s plan must heed certain design guidelines and receive a “certificate of appropriateness” from the city’s Landmarks & Urban Conservation Commission. The commission discussed the project at its meeting last month but continued the matter until its Jan. 13 hearing. Melissa Perez, a spokeswoman for the City Planning Department, said the commission “supported the project in general but asked the applicant to submit more detailed drawings before they can make a decision.”

The buildings, designed by Albuquerque’s RBA Architecture, are meant to resemble their surroundings. One will have a Spanish Pueblo Revival design, while the other will be done in New Mexico Vernacular, according to city documents, and each will have stucco finish exteriors.

“We’ll try to make it look as old as we possibly can,” Battaglia said.

The public has not voiced any objection to the project, Perez said, but several area property owners attended the December commission hearing and asked questions about parking and drainage. Battaglia said the lot being developed will keep 54 spaces.

Should the commission grant the certificate, the project can begin the building permit process. Battaglia said construction would begin quickly and the buildings could open by September. She can’t yet disclose the future tenants since the leases are not complete but said she has a few deals almost done. The office building would likely be single-user while the retail structure could have one or two businesses, she said.

The Landmarks & Urban Conservation Commission last approved a project for the Historic Old Town Zone in 2010, but Perez said that development — a one- and two-story residential building at 424 San Felipe — never happened.

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