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County to pay $2.7M for office building

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County commissioners gave the green light on Tuesday evening for the purchase of the Alvarado Square office building in Downtown Albuquerque for the bargain price of $2.7 million.

But the purchase price for the 282,000-square-foot building located on Silver Avenue is just a fraction of the $36.2 million that county officials estimate it will cost for building upgrades, purchasing additional parcels of land needed to consolidate county operations and for moving expenses.

Republicans Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert voted against the purchase, both of them raising concerns about the purchase being approved at the same meeting where gross receipts taxes were being raised.

Johnson said deciding to buy the building “in this atmosphere and in this environment” sends the wrong message to the public.

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County staff had tried to assure commissioners earlier in the meeting that imposition of the tax increase and the purchase of the building were not related.

Democrats Steven Michael Quezada, Maggie Hart Stebbins and Commission Chairwoman Debbie O’Malley voted for the purchase.

County staff are currently spread across six different buildings, County Manager Julie Morgas Baca said. She said that, over about 10 years, the county would save about $2 million by moving forward with the consolidation. And, she added, the costs of moving into Alvarado Square are about half of what it would cost to buy land and build a new county facility.

During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners approved a series of measures with one motion. They authorized the county manager to finalize the purchase agreement for Alvarado Square, and appropriated $4.1 million for that purchase and the purchase of other related properties, and the hiring of a consultant to help determine where offices should go. That money will come out of the county’s general fund reserves, although the county plans to replenish those reserves with gross receipts tax revenue bonds it plans to issue at a later date for the entire cost of the consolidation. Commissioners also directed the county manager to inventory, evaluate and sell the buildings it will no longer need once the consolidation takes place. And they authorized her to negotiate and execute any subsequent agreements related to the purchase and sale of properties.

County officials are estimating that the sale of those excess county properties would bring in about $6.2 million, which would then be used to offset the estimated $36.2 million cost of the consolidation.

In addition to the $4.1 million the county earmarked for Alvarado Square and associated properties, the county is estimating that another $32.1 million will be needed to bring Alvarado Square up to code, update the building’s systems, and to remodel and furnish it. A 10 percent contingency fund was also built into that figure.

Alvarado Square was once occupied by Public Service Co. of New Mexico. It had been listed in 2013 for $11 million.

Vic Bruno, a commercial real estate consultant working for the county on the purchase, said the purchase of Alvarado Square should be completed by April 30. He said the first batch of county employees would be moving into the building about 18 months after the purchase is finalized and the last set of employees would likely move in about three years after the purchase is finalized.


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