• Mystery solved: New credit union branch to move in next to Range Café on Rio Grande
  • In second Berry term, officials discussed turning Coronado into large skatepark
  • Proposed repeal of safe outdoor space encampments might not totally shut the door to religious groups
Mystery solved: New credit union branch to move in next to The Range Café on Rio Grande
A new branch of Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union is set to open near I-40 and Rio Grande sometime in the latter half of 2023, becoming the second credit union to locate along that freeway corridor in as many years.

"This is one of several areas where our members have requested a physical branch presence," said Melissa Stock, the vice president for marketing at the credit union. "Our philosophy and our brand is to be where our members need us."

Exact plans for the building are still TBD, but Stock said that they are considering adding a community room - something that might be open to groups looking to hold meetings. The credit union itself will feature both drive-through and walk-up banking options.

Exactly what was planned for the site just north of The Range Café had in recent months been the subject of much speculation in the area. The builder had deferred comment to the owner, Ed Garcia, who didn't return messages seeking comment. But following our article in late July, several Alert Readers wrote in with tips that eventually led to confirmation from the credit union.

Sandia presently has 13 branches, including one in Livermore, California, where Sandia National Labs maintains another campus.

The news comes just a few months after U.S. Eagle Federal Credit Union opened a branch at Avanyu Plaza, the development to the east of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. U.S. Eagle had previously been located at Albuquerque Plaza, the tallest building in the Downtown core.

It was one of several instances in recent years in which banks have moved or simply closed branches in the Downtown core, a phenomenon thought to result from a combination of general economic stagnation there and a longer-term trend toward remote banking that businesses - long the primary customers of city center branches - have been particularly enthusiastic about (DAN, 4/13/21).

But demand for in-person banking - particularly transactions that are more complex than routine deposits and withdrawals - remains a force to be reckoned with. So is the appeal, it seems, of proximity to I-40. The hope there, Stock said, is that "we'll be on a lot of people's way to work."
In second Berry term, officials discussed turning Coronado into large skatepark
Seven years ago, when Coronado Park was in rough-but-not-yet-dire shape, city parks officials began kicking around an idea to turn the property into a large skate park.

The project would have involved building a facility on the less-intense side of the city's spectrum of skate parks. Rather than just bowls and half-pipes, it would have involved a "street course" mimicking those enticing concrete arroyos that skaters are supposed to stay out of, with a few challenging obstacles thrown in for good measure, said Barbara Taylor, who was the director of the Parks Department for the last three years of former Mayor Richard Berry's term.

The move would have amounted to an expansion of a small skating facility at the park built in the mid-2000s that remains to this day. 

Taylor, who had worked in other parts of city government - including on other skating facilities - before her stint as parks director, said the idea never made it out of the conceptual stage before Berry's term ended in late 2017. Though Mayor Tim Keller's administration took things in a different direction, Taylor reckons it's an idea that deserves a second look as the city ponders what to do next with the park.

"I personally think that Coronado park should be returned to public space," she said, adding that the skate park would be "an opportunity to provide and improve on the skatepark facilities that were there and were well-used before the park was overrun with campers."

(The mayor's office isn't commenting much on the specifics of Coronado Park's future, though three ideas on the table include installing affordable or supportive housing there, building some sort of fire department training facility, and returning it to park status. Keller recently called the non-park options "frontrunners," though spokeswoman Ava Montoya later emphasized that "the future of the property and its best use are still to be determined.")

The prime demographic for a hypothetical skate park would likely be kids from nearby neighborhoods, plus some highly-motivated skaters who would come in from the rest of the city - undeterred, Taylor believes, by the noise and any aesthetic disadvantages of I-40.

"Kids will get on a bus to find a place to skate," Taylor said, adding that "the interstate is not an obstacle here."
Proposed repeal of safe outdoor space encampments might not totally shut the door to religious groups
Council district two, which covers the city center and parts of the North Valley, has active applications for four safe outdoor space encampments. The one off of South Broadway and the one near Gibson and University are affiliated with churches.
Assuming all nine of them stick to their original positions, city councilors may well override a mayoral veto tomorrow and place a moratorium on officially-sanctioned homeless encampments (known as safe outdoor spaces), closing the door to new applicants and throwing into jeopardy those proposals still working their way through the approval system.

But even if they do, and even if a separate effort seeking to make that ban permanent is also successful, that would not necessarily stop religious organizations from building campgrounds or RV parks that are functionally the same thing. Faith-based groups would be able to do so as an "incidental activity" to their normal operations, city spokesman Tim Walsh said, relying on these standards in the Integrated Development Ordinance, the city's main body of land-use regulations.

That is no small thing. Churches have so far been some of the most enthusiastic fans of sanctioned encampments, filing five of the eight applications to run them, including one in the San Jos
é neighborhood and another near Gibson and University. But even if those two groups would be interested in forging ahead, the city isn't speculating about where exactly the pre-2022 rules would leave their plans.

"Applications are reviewed and approved based on the IDO that is in effect when the application is deemed complete by the Planning Department," Walsh said.
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