• City contemplated turning Coronado into children's theme park based on fire trucks and firefighters
  • Key redevelopment bill gets first hearing in Santa Fe today
  • National non-profit arrives to pursue housing for artists, and they're focused on the core
  • Music and new lighting come to the Central underpass 
City contemplated turning Coronado into children's theme park based on fire trucks and firefighters
Mockups produced for the city by a local landscape architecture firm show kids playing with water on what appears to be a vintage fire truck, as well as other play equipment designed to look the part.
Talk to someone over the age of about 35 who grew up in Albuquerque, and there's a good chance they'll be able to share some happy childhood memories of romping around on an antique steam locomotive that was based at Coronado Park between 1956 and 2000.

Since the turn of the century, of course, things have changed quite a bit there: The locomotive went off to be restored elsewhere in Wells Park and Coronado became something of an epicenter for a growing homelessness crisis before its closure last summer (DAN, 7/26/22). But Downtown Albuquerque News has learned that in 2020 the city began quietly contemplating a new mission for the park that would have echoed the former theme of kids playing on the sorts of large vehicles they tend to find so fascinating.

Though the project had no formal name and never made it past the idea stage, a concept plan developed for the city by MRWM, a landscape architecture firm, contemplates a full menu of firetruck and firefighter-themed attractions for the younger set. There are play areas dedicated to ladders, fire hoses, and fire trucks. There is also a spray pad involving hydrants and a museum dedicated to the work of Albuquerque Fire Rescue. Coronado's dog park, which is located to the southeast across Third Street, was to be connected to the main park by a pedestrian bridge and dedicated to some sort of programming involving dalmatians, which have long been associated with fire fighting.

The document also appears to imagine (here and here) the possible involvement of Creamland, the dairy which maintains a facility just south of the dog park and has been a staple of the neighborhood for just over 100 years (DAN, 7/1/21). In decades past, the company operated an ice cream shop near the park. 

Creamland spokeswoman Kim O'Brien said the company was unaware of the idea, and city spokeswoman Franchesca Perdue added that "the logo was used to illustrate one of several potential partnerships that could be involved in the project." 

The Parks Department felt that the broader idea "could contribute to and stimulate discussion about the future for the park and the neighborhood," Perdue added.

The idea of a fire truck park has since been shelved, though Perdue didn't directly address why. The concept does not appear to have ever been presented in a public forum until this article. DAN obtained the plan document through a request made under the state's Inspection of Public Records Act.

In recent years, there has been no shortage of ideas for how to reclaim Coronado Park, which for years served as an unofficial homeless day shelter and sometimes encampment that the city alternately approached with tolerance and crackdowns.

Last summer as he moved to close the park, Mayor Tim Keller floated several possibilities for future uses, including affordable housing, a safe outdoor space encampment, a new park, and a training facility for emergency responders. In recent months, that last idea has won out, and the city is currently pursuing $20 million in state funding to establish a training center there to be used by a variety of law enforcement, fire, and search-and-rescue agencies (DAN, 1/13/23). 

Former Mayor Richard Berry's administration also considered installing a destination park at Coronado in the form of an elaborate skating facility (DAN, 9/6/22). Attracting visitors from around the city is thought to be especially critical to the success of any park in that location because the land is separated from residential areas by various commercial and industrial facilities and I-40.

The Wells Park Neighborhood Association and City Councilor Isaac Benton, meanwhile, have maintained that whatever happens to the space, it should remain a public amenity.
City center redevelopment bill gets first hearing in Santa Fe today
SB 251, which could potentially result in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new spending in Greater Downtown and other city centers across the state (DAN, 1/30/23), will be heard by the Senate Tax, Business, and Transportation Committee. Details on how to join virtually or in person are here. Note: the hearing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. but will be delayed if the Senate's floor session has not yet concluded.

Up-to-the-minute information: We're creating a special listserve for readers who don't want to wait until the next DAN comes out to know the latest on the bill. Let us know if you want to be on it by contacting us here.
National non-profit arrives to pursue housing for artists, and they're focused on the core
The Roderick, a collection of lofts in El Paso, is one of nearly 60 projects engineered nationwide by Artspace, an organization that develops housing geared toward artists and other creatives. Artspace
A Minnesota-based non-profit that consults on and develops housing geared toward artists is in Albuquerque this week as part of an effort to study the possibilities of such an idea taking off Downtown.

A team from Artspace, which was founded in 1979, will take a number of meetings this week with officials and representatives from the arts community and tour some potential sites, said Aneesha Marwah, who directs the group's consulting arm. The agenda will also include an informational meeting that is open to the public, to be held tomorrow from 5-7 p.m. at the new Flamenco Works location at 506 Central NW.

The overall goal of the tour is to contribute to a feasibility study, slated to wrap up toward the summer, that looks at demand, funding possibilities, local leadership, the real estate scene, and just how cohesive the local creative sector is - all key factors in a successful development, Marwah said. Whether all that eventually leads to a groundbreaking is up to the local community, but it did happen that way in such mid-size western cities as El Paso, Colorado Springs, and Mesa, Arizona

In most respects, housing geared toward artists is just like any other modern apartment complex, but there are key differences: The floor plans are on the open side and tend to feature high ceilings and no carpet, the better to accommodate a musical group or a large, potentially messy project. Rules about hanging things on walls are looser than usual. Tenants making noise and keeping unusual hours is treated as par for the course.

On the financial side, all Artspace developments rely on local philanthropy, local government, and federal low-income housing tax credits. The last source means that the finished product qualifies as low-income housing, something artists are often in need of anyway.

Besides working to ensure that artists have a place to hang their hats, one of the goals of such housing developments is to inject new and interesting energy into an area - something that often happens when dozens of typically communitarian creative types find themselves in the same building.

"In no other kind of apartment building would people bring out their wares and sell them on the sidewalk," Marwah said. Others tend to find their way to various downtown organizations, where they bring "a whole different perspective," she added.

Artspace comes at the invitation of Downtown ABQ Mainstreet, the state-chartered organization that also runs the Downtown Arts and Cultural District. The feasibility study has financial backing from the city's Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency.

"We're really hoping this can be another addition to Downtown Albuquerque that will lift up the arts community," said Danielle Schlobohm, the Downtown ABQ Mainstreet director. "More activity and more cultural life will attract more people and that means less crime and more safety."
Word of mouth helps DAN grow
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Music and new lighting come to the Central underpass
Electricians put up this new lighting on the south side passageway in recent weeks. Painters have also been spotted in the area.
Pat Montoya, the director of the city's Department of Municipal Development, told the City Council last month that the lighting and associated wiring would be encased in vandal-proof cages, but that had not happened as of last week.
The trash situation, however, hasn't changed much yet.
Finally, this is one of the few publicly-available photos Dee Yan-Key, who wrote two of the (royalty free) pieces of music that were playing on the new sound system during last week's visit. One was a ten-minute ambient-style classical piece titled "Angst," according to the music identification app Shazam (listen here). The other was called "Vivo" and featured a string quartet (listen here). Montoya told councilors that the goal of the music was to be "somewhat irritating" to would-be loiterers. Courtesy photo
Keep on truckin'
Noticed at Lomas and Sixteenth: A rare sighting of what we're pretty sure is a Volkswagen Rabbit pickup truck (and a well-tended one at that), likely from the early 1980s.
Valley policing council to hear from APD reform superintendent
Victor Valdez will discuss his work and take questions. The meeting is Thursday evening at the Johnny Tapia Community Center in Wells Park or online. Details here.
Did you get last week's Friday Roundup? 
We had a report of some technical trouble so we're double checking. If you missed it, here's the direct link. And if DAN ever fails to show up on a weekday that's not a federal holiday, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Downtown Albuquerque News covers Downtown, Old Town, and surrounding neighborhoods. We publish weekdays except for federal holidays. If someone forwarded DAN to you, please consider subscribing. Click here to subscribe, contact us, submit a letter to the editor, or learn more about what we do. If you ever run into technical trouble receiving DAN, click here.
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