Mayor: City, developer reach deal to save $40M development plan Downtown - Albuquerque Journal

Mayor: City, developer reach deal to save $40M development plan Downtown

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry delivers the State of the City Address at the Convention Center on Monday. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry delivers the State of the City Address at the Convention Center on Monday. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Mayor Richard Berry says the $40 million mixed-use development planned for First and Central is back on track after the city and developer both “stepped up with additional resources” to save the project.

He didn’t share details immediately, but he made the announcement during his annual State of the City address in Downtown Albuquerque, at a luncheon meeting of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce.

The future of the project was thrown into doubt earlier this month when Bernalillo County commissioners narrowly agreed to shorten the length of a tax break — from 30 years to 15 — for the project. The original tax exemption was valued at roughly $306,000, though the developer was to make about $76,0000 in payments in lieu of taxes.

Plans to start construction were put on hold after the commission’s decision. But Berry said Monday that the city and developer, One Central Operating Associates LLC, came up with additional resources to “make this catalytic investment in our Downtown a reality.”

One change is that the city will boost its contribution to the project by about $300,000 — to a total of $17.55 million.

The project is to include a bowling alley, brewery, apartments, restaurant and concert space.

Monday’s speech comes as the mayor heads into the last year of his term. He won election in 2009, and re-election in 2013.

Albuquerque mayors aren’t bound by term limits, but Berry has said repeatedly that this will be his last term. The election is Oct. 3, and a new mayor takes office Dec. 1 next year.

“I’m a track-and-field guy: We’re going to sprint through the finish line,” Berry said Monday.

He said he will push for better information-sharing among the courts and other criminal-justice agencies with the goal of keeping repeat offenders in jail.

Berry noted that the population of the local jail system has fallen, but there’s no need to push it back to its previous levels, he said. Instead, authorities will focus on the relatively small number of people causing a disproportionate share of the crime, Berry said.

To that end, he said, the city will launch an advocacy program in which citizens track the arrests of repeat offenders and speak in court in favor of tougher sentencing requirements or more stringent bail requirements.

Berry said he will again ask the Legislature to change pension rules to encourage retired police officers to return to work. The city needs to grow its police force from about 850 officers to 1,000, he said.

Berry also said Downtown redevelopment is picking up momentum. He estimated that about $150 million in projects are under construction, already planned or recently completed.

A private company called Emera has donated $500,000 to help create a more vibrant Downtown and help small businesses along the Central corridor, he said.

As for the project at First and Central, Berry has made it a priority.

The city of Albuquerque is providing land valued at $1.4 million and buying the project’s parking garage for $17.55 million.

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