Mayor’s plan would sup­port Rail Yards clean-up

Bond pack­age pro­posal also has large sums for roads, fa­cil­i­ties

Albuquerque Journal - - METRO&NM - BY JES­SICA DYER JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

It will cost an es­ti­mated $8 mil­lion to $9 mil­lion to re­move lead-based paint, as­bestos and soil con­tam­i­na­tion at the city-owned Rail Yards site. The project could get a big boost un­der a cap­i­tal im­prove­ment plan pitched by the mayor.

In his first gen­eral obli­ga­tion bond pack­age pro­posal since tak­ing of­fice, Al­bu­querque Mayor Tim Keller is seek­ing about $5.5 mil­lion for re­de­vel­op­ment ef­forts at the Rail Yards, a 27.3-acre prop­erty in the Bare­las neigh­bor­hood.

The city is also seek­ing $15 mil­lion in state money from the Leg­is­la­ture for the re­de­vel­op­ment work.

Keller has talked about in­vest­ing in the Rail Yards since he was on the cam­paign trail in 2017, and his ad­min­is­tra­tion last year sev­ered a con­tract with the pri­vate de­vel­oper hired in 2012 to rein­vig­o­rate the prop­erty, putting the city back in con­trol of the process.

The city has added round-the-clock se­cu­rity at the Rail Yards and be­gun de­mol­ish­ing smaller, non­his­toric struc­tures.

But any sig­nif­i­cant re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion will re­quire abat­ing lead-based paint and as­bestos in the ex­ist­ing build­ings and re­mov­ing con­tam­i­nants from the soil.

“That is where we have to start,” said Carmelina Hart, a spokes­woman for the city Plan­ning De­part­ment. She said that it’s not yet clear how long the clean-up would take.

“It’s hard to put some­thing like this on a time­line. It is just a large project, and some­times you just have to move as quickly as the re­me­di­a­tion will let you.”

An en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment con­ducted last sum­mer by an out­side firm es­ti­mated that clean­ing up just the north­ern half of the site would cost about $4.2 mil­lion. The city says a com­plete prop­erty re­me­di­a­tion would

run about twice that — $8 mil­lion to $9 mil­lion.

The Rail Yards re­quest is part of Keller’s $127 mil­lion cap­i­tal rec­om­men­da­tion that is also heavy on road im­prove­ments, and fam­ily and com­mu­nity ser­vice projects.

The City Coun­cil last week held a pub­lic hear­ing on the pro­posal and will make its own markups be­fore dis­cussing the plan again Feb. 21.

The gen­eral obli­ga­tion bond pack­age ul­ti­mately ap­proved by the coun­cil will go be­fore vot­ers this Novem­ber.

Keller’s pro­posal would de­vote $37.3 mil­lion to the De­part­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal De­vel­op­ment for street and bridge up­grades, me­dian land­scap­ing, and other re­lated work.

It would put al­most $50 mil­lion into com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties, with large por­tions go­ing to the In­ter­na­tional District Li­brary ($5.5 mil­lion), af­ford­able hous­ing projects ($5 mil­lion) and a new home­less fa­cil­ity ($7 mil­lion).

Keller’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and some city coun­cilors have pub­licly ex­pressed the need for a more cen­trally lo­cated home­less shel­ter to re­place the ex­ist­ing fa­cil­ity at an old jail about 20 miles away from Down­town. That West Side fa­cil­ity — now sleep­ing about 325 peo­ple each night — is ex­pand­ing from a win­ter-only to year-round op­er­a­tion. But that runs $4.5 mil­lion an­nu­ally, and trans­port­ing peo­ple to and from the shel­ter ac­counts for about a quar­ter of the cost.

The city is also ask­ing for state cap­i­tal money for that project as well, but Al­bu­querque’s Fam­ily and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Di­rec­tor Carol Pierce said it is still prob­a­bly two or three years out.

MOR­GAN PETROSKI/JOUR­NAL

The ma­chine shop in the Rail Yards sits empty in Jan­uary 2015. Mayor Tim Keller is seek­ing some $5.5 mil­lion for re­de­vel­op­ment ef­forts at the Rail Yards in his first gen­eral obli­ga­tion bond pack­age pro­posal since tak­ing of­fice.

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