A busy fall at the Rail Yards, with roofing projects, landscaping, and pathways to and from

Money, however, is projected to run out in the medium term

Barelas reps are keen on neighborhood connections to 4th, bosque trail

With a BNSF land donation, a trail going north to Lomas is on track
Editor's note: Thanks to the lockdown, the usual quarterly meeting of all the Rail Yards Advisory Board - a group of elected officials and community reps - went on hiatus until last week. Needless to say, there was a lot to catch up on after six months. Below are the updates, and if you need a refresher on what the larger Rail Yards project is all about, check out this DAN cheat sheet overview.
A trail idea formerly framed as a Central-Lomas project now includes the Rail Yards
The trail would run mostly on the west side of the railroad tracks and sometimes directly adjacent to them.
Two projects that would add bicycle/pedestrian trails to the Downtown core appear to have merged, at least for most intents and purposes.

The city's Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency first floated the idea of a trail between Central and Lomas last summer. The path would hug the railroad tracks and include a new ground-level crossing at Marquette (details in this DAN from last August). The project has thus far locked down $2 million of the estimated $4.9 million total cost. It's in the design phase for the next six to eight months while the city looks for more money, spokeswoman Jennifer Esquivel said.

But earlier this year, the city also announced plans for a sidewalk spruce-up job for 1st Street that would include at least the possibility of some kind of accompanying trail, depending on how things played out. (Details midway through this DAN from late February.) That project, at last check, was already fully funded at $2.4 million.

Those two pieces are now one, at least as far as a new city trail route illustration is concerned (see above). The longer trail idea also got a hefty recent boost from the BNSF Railway: The company, still a major area property owner, donated a 20-foot strip of land alongside 1st for the cause, which gives the city considerable flexibility, Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael told the Rail Yards Advisory Board last week.

"We can incorporate all the multi-uses that we'd like to see," he said. "It will make the connection between Downtown and the Rail Yards a much safer and wider connection."
Landscaping project along 2nd aims to soften the property's rough edge
In the coming months, the city will be taking a look at how to beautify the presently-stark division between the Rail Yards, 2nd street, and the neighborhood. Above is an artist's rendering of some possibilities.

"This is just kind of an opening 'here's what it could be,'" said Ed Adams, the Rail Yards project manager. "This is an opportunity to transform how the Rail Yard property feels into the neighborhood."

Lawrence Rael, meanwhile, said there would be extensive consultation with Barelas about the look and feel of the landscaping, as well as the trail mentioned above.
New roofing, utilities, and general cleanup are on the fall to-do list
Aerial photos from 2014 and 2020 show rapid deterioration on the roof of the boiler shop, the second-largest building at the Rail Yards. (2014 photos by World Imagery Wayback. 2020 photos by the City of Albuquerque.) 
The city is on the cusp of writing some very large checks for new roofing on some Rail Yards buildings, Ed Adams said last week. The process of bidding out the jobs and awarding contracts is set to extend into the fall, but he expects the roofing bill for the boiler shop, the complex's second-largest building, to add up to about $4 million.

The projects may not be high-profile or even visible to the general public, Rael said, but he added that the business of protecting the buildings was nonetheless very important.

Other projects for this fall include bringing utilities - including water, sewer, natural gas, and communications - to more of the property, Adams said. The process of cleaning up junk around the campus and filtering pollutants out of the soil also continues, he added.
Money will run out in the medium-term
Most of the new projects mentioned above are paid for through two sources: About $7 million recently awarded by the state and $5 million from city funds approved by voters last year. But Adams told the advisory board that the money would soon be entirely spoken for.

"By January all of those funds will be at work and fully obligated," he said.

At that point, the vast uncertainty affecting the whole world will officially arrive at the Rail Yards project. The cost of fixing up the entire property is projected at north of $50 million, depending on the scenario, and much of that money was expected to come from a state government now suddenly contending with an economic collapse and low oil prices.

Where the next round of funding might come from, in other words, is very much up in the air. Or as City Councilor Isaac Benton deadpanned at last week's meeting: "It's going to be an interesting session."
The city is still seeking ideas for north-end buildings
Three smaller buildings (red box) at the north end of the Rail Yards, including the brick firehouse (middle building), were ready enough earlier this year for the city to issue a request for proposals on how to develop them. Because of the pandemic, the deadline has been extended to September 10. "I'm excited to see what the proposals are," said Karen Iverson, who manages the city's Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency.
CNM remains on board for a project that could take up one of the site's bigger buildings
Central New Mexico Community College, which is interested in locating a film production center at the Rail Yards, is still actively evaluating the idea, Lawrence Rael said. The college has devoted about $600,000 to a review process and may look to raise more money through a bond issue in 2021, he added.

CNM's participation is thought to be key to the overall Rail Yards project. A film center would take up quite a bit of space in the complex, bring with it lots of people, and add to the mix an institution with its own considerable funding sources and political heft.
Barelas reps are keen on connections to 4th, bosque trail
Santa Fe Ave. (green line), particularly the section between 2nd and 4th (thick green line) is seen as a prime connecting street between the Rail Yards, 4th (red line), and the rest of the Barelas neighborhood.
Though the city has placed much emphasis and money behind trail and sidewalk improvements from the Rail Yards north to the Downtown core, Barelas neighborhood representatives are looking to ensure that the development is just as accessible and inviting from the west.

Eric Griego, a board member of the Barelas Community Coalition, asked city officials last week about extending the planned landscaping and sidewalk improvements (mentioned above) to 4th via Santa Fe, a move he hopes will ensure the Rail Yards don't end up diverting people away from 4th, a corridor that the BCC has worked extensively to promote and develop over the years and still has big plans for.

Barelas Neighborhood Association President Dorothy Chavez, meanwhile, noted that the small pedestrian/bicycle bridge that connects the western end of Santa Fe to Tingley Drive and the bosque trail was originally developed with one eye on the Rail Yards.

"I would actually like to see that connectivity go all the way to that bridge," she said.

City officials seemed receptive to the ideas. Rael called the situation "a really good opportunity" and asked Benton to pursue funding for it through the annual capital projects program. Benton, for his part, seemed to be on board with the idea, calling the Santa Fe connections a long-standing component of the planning process.

What exactly it would take to turn Santa Fe - a fairly normal Barelas street - into a more formal corridor is a question that would be answered far into the future, but other similar efforts in the past have included enhanced lighting, signage, and traffic calming measures.
Hope Village, a 42-unit apartment complex for chronically homeless people, will break ground this week
The project is located on 3rd in Wells Park, and construction is slated to last about one year. For further details, check out this press release and this edition of DAN from March 23.
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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