• With its gym, coffee shop, and barbershop, the new Por Vida Tattoo is basically 'a community center for adults.'
  • Survey of Barelas finds pride, interest in energy retrofits, and fear for the future of its housing
  • Legal prep for Civic Plaza sale means cleaning up 100-year-old lot lines
With its gym, coffee shop, and barbershop, the new Por Vida Tattoo is basically 'a community center for adults'
From top to bottom: Julian Mora, Brandon Burke, Bale Sisneros, and Nacho Luna. Sisneros is the Por Vida owner, and the others are current or former managers who remain heavily involved in the operation.
The grand opening celebration is yet to come, but things are already humming and largely open for business at Por Vida Tattoo, the shop that recently moved from its former location near 10th and Central to a vastly larger space in the old Appliance City building at 4th and Coal.

Parts of the building are still under construction, including the marble tile floor, which is set to frame in a centrally-located pond stocked with fish. The barbershop, located on an upper floor, is almost finished, and the gym, located on the south side of the building, is slated for build-out later this year. Owner Bale Sisneros said extensive work on the building's facade will also come later.

But though it's unfinished, the aesthetic and general vibe of the place has been firmly established. The walls are packed with all sorts of arresting art, only some of which has anything directly to do with tattooing. The coffee shop is open (8 a.m.-8 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, entrance off of 4th). And the tattooing, which happens in two rooms on two floors, is well underway.

Sisneros says he only started the coffee shop back at the 10th and Central location because tattoo customers wanted to drop by just to say hi and felt weird doing it without a tattoo-related reason. Soon there will be so many other ancillary activities to choose from that it's not quite clear just how ancillary they are. You could almost spend the whole day, even if a tattoo was the furthest thing from your mind. The coffee shop even serves food.

"You think of a community center [and] you think of kids and basketball," Sisneros said. But this is, "I guess, a community center for adults."
Survey of Barelas finds pride, interest in energy retrofits, fear for the future of its housing
Barelas residents are broadly satisfied with life in the neighborhood and are quick to recommend it to others, but while living there is generally thought to be affordable now, there is widespread fear that it will not remain that way for long.

Those are just some of the results from a wide-ranging survey of 159 area residents commissioned by Homewise, a non-profit mortgage lender with a headquarters at 2nd and Lead and a real estate portfolio that includes three other commercial buildings in the neighborhood, including the former B. Ruppe Drugs on 4th.

Fully 87 percent of those surveyed would probably or definitely recommend the neighborhood as a good place to live, a strong response that could well have something to do with also-strong perceptions of social cohesion: About half of residents believe that neighbors would help each other out with childcare in a pinch, and higher percentages say that more general help, particularly for elderly neighbors, would be there if needed.

But just like neighborhood conversation mills and other reports produced in recent years, the survey results are shot through with a sense of foreboding about the area's future affordability. A narrow majority of 53 percent believe that general housing changes in the next five years will affect their own situation, and 40 percent are very or somewhat concerned that they might have to move away from the neighborhood because of housing prices. The present-day picture is nonetheless rosier: Only 22 percent of renters and 12 percent of owners find it somewhat or very difficult to meet their housing expenses.

Just over 70 percent of renters expressed an interest in owning their own homes, a figure that is roughly in line with national figures, according to Freddie Mac, a government-sponsored mortgage lender.

Among current homeowners, a plurality of 40 percent said they were interested in improving their home's energy efficiency, compared to just 16 percent who prioritized refinancing their mortgage. Such retrofits, which could entail anything from a wholesale revamp of a home's insulation to installing more efficient appliances, have the effect of permanently lowering utility bills and are seen by housing experts and neighborhood leaders as a good way to keep long-time residents in their homes. The issue takes on particular weight in neighborhoods like Barelas, where fear of gentrification is widespread.

For Homewise, the survey represents a chance to gauge what sort of demand for its main product exists in a neighborhood where it has taken a special interest.

"To us, it feels like a real mandate to help bring more people into the home ownership pipeline," said Johanna Gilligan, Homewise's senior director for community development.

The survey, which she said would be repeated in three years, is also a chance to see what else neighbors are interested in and calibrate other work to it. 

"This gives us a lot of direction," Gilligan said.
Legal prep for Civic Plaza sale means cleaning up 100-year-old lot lines
The collection of buildings and park/event space we know today as Civic Plaza seems like a fairly cohesive and unified thing. But legally speaking, the campus sits on over 20 separate properties, many of which invisibly slice up the 8-acre space in ways that bear no relation to how the buildings are actually positioned.

This is the sort of trifling legal paradox that can be safely ignored for decades, and indeed those lot lines seem to have been set out in the late 1800s or early 1900s, when what we think of as the Downtown core was known as "New Town," a settlement built up around the arrival of the railroad in 1880. But as part of its move to Alvarado Square, Bernalillo County is looking to sell its stake in Civic Plaza, and county spokesman Tom Thorpe says that finally tidying up the lines will make that sale "a much cleaner process."

The move, which is slated to be heard at a city development board this week, will also entail formally taking over an east-west alley that technically runs through Civic Plaza. Though it still officially exists on paper, the alley was blocked off by a building many years ago.
Downtown Albuquerque News covers greater Downtown, which we generally define as the area created by I-40, the Rio Grande, and the railroad tracks. We publish weekdays except for federal holidays. If someone forwarded DAN to you, please consider subscribing. To subscribe, contact us, submit a letter to the editor, or learn more about what we do, click here. If you ever run into technical trouble receiving DAN, click here.
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