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Still no details on ART loan fund

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The city is still unable to provide details about its  much anticipated Albuquerque Rapid Transit Loan Program.

Gary Oppedahl, director of the Economic Development Department, said earlier this year that the loan money would be available March 1. The program is supposed to provide loans to help Central Avenue businesses affected by ART construction.

Release of the funds and even details of the program have been delayed as the Economic Development Department and the Mayor’s Office try to finalize the program. “(The city is) anxiously working towards an announcement soon,” Rhiannon Samuel, the director of communications for Mayor Richard Berry, told the Journal on Tuesday.

In an email communication with Samuel on March 20, the Journal was told, “No date yet, but I am told soon.”

ART, a bus-rapid transit system that will involve a series of bus-only lanes and stations down the middle of Central Avenue, began construction last year, and many businesses along the construction zone are feeling the strain.

“I wish the loans had been available when they said they would be,” said Dana Koller, owner of Kaktus Brewing, a Nob Hill restaurant and brewery. “We couldn’t wait anymore and had to get a consolidation loan.”

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Koller said Tuesday that he has concerns about the loan program. “We would like to (take advantage of the loans) but by the time they release it, it may be too late,” Koller said.

Construction on the project is supposed to wrap up by the end of the year.

Koller, who sponsors passport programs with other Nob Hill businesses to draw attention to the area, said details about the loans “would be nice,” even if the funds are not yet ready.

“I’m worried that some of the businesses down here, if the details aren’t very cut-and-dry aren’t going to trust it.  We just don’t know much about it right now,” said Koller.

Oppedahl said in early March that the city had “pledges from partners which exceed $500,000” for the fund, which consists of donations from private lenders.

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