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New loan fund to help Central businesses cope with ART project

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Passengers would buy their tickets at kiosks before boarding the Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus, as shown in this rendering of a Downtown bus station at Second and Copper NW. (Courtesy City of Albuquerque)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new loan fund has been set up to support small businesses along Central Avenue that will be affected by the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.

The McCune Charitable Foundation of Santa Fe has provided initial seed funding, but the foundation has a policy of not revealing specific amounts. A spokeswoman said it is less than $100,000.

The Co-op Capital Fund will be a “flexible loan instrument” that will provide a range of financial support, including forgivable loans to help businesses overcome challenges, as well as low-and zero-interest loans to improve their storefronts or make other upgrades.

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The city hopes to leverage the grant and create a larger fund by raising about $2 million from the private sector, financial institutions and others with a goal of launching the services in the early fall.

The city is “being very intentional” as it proceeds with ART, a nine-mile network that will mean more customers for Central businesses and fewer parking problems for shoppers, said Gary Oppedahl, Albuquerque’s economic development director.

“We want to make sure we don’t lose any businesses … along the way,” he said.

While some large employers along Central favor the project, the New Mexico Restaurant Association and a number of small businesses say construction and traffic problems will scare customers away, forcing businesses to close. Opponents are in federal court this week in a bid to stop the project.

ART will feature bus-only lanes and bus stations in the middle of Central Avenue. The goal is to provide faster, more reliable bus service in the heart of the city and attract redevelopment along the old Route 66.

The Co-op Capital Fund will be administered by the independent Small Business Resource Collaborative, which includes non-profit business development groups and local business advocates.

Money will be available to locally-owned businesses that have under $2 million in revenue with a front entrance on Central.

The city’s approach to helping Central restaurants and shops is based on best practices from other areas that have undertaken similar projects, Oppedahl said.

 

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