• City moves to seize land in front of Rail Yards for new roundabout
  • Anna Muller, a Downtown fixture who owned the Kress Building, is dead at 77
City moves to seize land in front of Rail Yards for new roundabout
The city's effort to install a roundabout on a presently-vacant triangle of land across from the Rail Yards is tied up in court.
A roughly 10,000-square foot triangle of land framed by 2nd, Hazledine, and 1st has become the focus of a protracted legal dispute, pitting a would-be private developer against the city's attempt to install a roundabout on the site.

Given the shape and relatively small size, the presently-vacant lot might not even stand out as something likely to be in private hands in the first place, but it is in fact owned by an LLC called Rail Yards Land that is controlled by Noah Sapir, a developer who helped start the Fat Cat Fab Lab, a "makerspace" in New York City.

Sapir told DAN that he purchased the triangle property in 2015 and had pursued the development of a three-story building that would include one or two spaces for food service, perhaps a few lofts, and space he hoped to rent to a non-profit, tech company or makerspace along the lines of the Quelab (Wells Park) or FUSE (EDo). Overall, he figured, the work would complement the larger Rail Yards development project.
An artist's rendering of a proposed three-story development that would include a mini park/pathway on what is presently a closed section of 1st.
But those plans took a turn when the city began condemnation proceedings in May of 2019. Initially, according to court filings, the city sought to take the land "for the purpose of property consolidation for the Railyard Project for public purposes," but later amended its petition to include specific plans for a roundabout. 

According to a diagram filed with the court, the roundabout could collect traffic from 2nd and 1st and create a new entrance into the Rail Yards complex between the Firehouse and the Pattern House. (Building diagram here.)

Sapir's attorneys have argued that the law does not give the city the authority to take the land in the context of a metropolitan redevelopment project and that the proposed roundabout amounts to an attempt "to obscure the actual purpose for the proposed taking."

"The fact that they're coming up with a roundabout right now is preposterous," Sapir said.

The two sides are also fighting about the value of the land in question. The city says $75,600 would be a fair price, while Sapir puts the value at about $355,000.

City spokesman Johnny Chandler said he couldn't comment on pending litigation.

Aside from the potential roundabout, the city has lately pursued several projects in the "front door" area of the Rail Yards. Planning work for a trail along 1st toward Alvarado Transit Center and landscaping along 2nd is already in the works, and the city has also asked for proposals on what to do with the Firehouse, the Pattern House, and the Tank Shop, smaller buildings which all front 1st or 2nd.
Anna Muller, a Downtown fixture who owned the Kress Building, is dead at 77
The Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce posted this photo along with a tribute last week.
On a litany of major Downtown issues spanning decades, she was either a driving force or at least a key supporting actor. Between pushing for historic preservation measures, helping to create the Downtown Growers' Market, or advancing the interests of business clients, she amounted to, as one friend put it, "the pioneer of revitalizing Downtown Albuquerque." 

Anna Muller, a former Downtown Neighborhoods Association Board member, Downtown Action Team president, politico, and avid bicyclist, died on Friday, October 23. She had been living in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2019. Muller was 77. Margy Hernandez, the owner of La Mexicana Tortilla Company and a longtime friend, confirmed the death.

Muller was born on July 4, 1943 and grew up largely in Taos, where she learned English only after entering the first grade. Her early jobs included working in the family sheepherding business, exercising racehorses, and working in parking enforcement for the town's 12 meters. She is survived by her sister, Frankie Veronda.

Muller would usually return to Taos on her birthday to celebrate and watch the parade, "which she was sure was in her honor," Hernandez said with a laugh.

She cut a diminutive-but-powerful figure. A healthy living aficionado, she claimed to be five feet tall (though Hernandez thought this an exaggeration) and rode her bicycle to all manner of errand and social call. 

Tina Cordova, one of Muller's clients, recalled sharing a hotel room with her while traveling to various conferences only to learn that her morning routine included 100 situps and 100 jumping jacks.

"At the heart of everything, she was a fitness buff," Cordova said. Around her, "I would oftentimes feel like a slug."

And on matters of height: "I love the fact that I'm small," Cordova recalls Muller saying, "because everybody always underestimates me."

Through her company, NEDA Business Consultants, "Anna was the godmother of minority business in New Mexico," Cordova said, noting that she was particularly expert in the federal contracting process and navigating businesses through the challenges of insurance, finance, and bonding.

Muller was instrumental in getting the Downtown Neighborhoods designated as a historic district, recalled longtime neighbor Laura Bruzzese, a move that installed a protective layer over a large chunk of the city center at a time when policymakers were more focused on the heights.

And she was immensely proud of the Downtown Growers' Market, which she helped start.

"She's the one that went to [Mayor Martin] Chavez and said 'I want to do this and need some funding,'" Hernandez said.

"That was definitely one of her favorite things," Bruzzese added. "She loved Downtown - she called it her 'hood.'"

Muller also served on the board of the Downtown Neighborhoods Association, at one point showing off her home as part of the organization's long-running Mother's Day Historic Home Tour.

She also owned the historic Kress Building, which she occasionally rented out for movie shoots. The building has lately been undergoing a revitalization under the supervision of Victoria Van Dame, of the OT Circus Gallery.

Muller was also active in Republican politics. Along with a delegation that included the late Senator Pete Domenici, she met then-presidential-candidate Bob Dole as he arrived at the Sunport for a rally at Tiguex Park in 1996. In 2004, she hosted Elizabeth Dole at her house (near 11th and Roma) for an event in support of George W. Bush's reelection campaign.

Muller was no stranger to controversy. She critiqued redevelopment plans in West Downtown, called the 8th and Central roundabout "a ridiculous project," and clashed with local bar owners in her capacity as president of the now-defunct Downtown Action Team.

But she also knew how to have a good time.

"She could make some really good margaritas," Hernandez said.

And she took care of friends and strangers alike. Once, on a visit to Muller's home, Cordova noticed a new backyard clothesline and wondered if her dryer was broken.

"She said, 'no I have a homeless person living back there,'" Cordova said. "She was fearless ... she has interacted with politicians at the highest level and had homeless people living in her backyard and everything in between."
They did not mess with Anna
Anna and I were on the state Republican executive committee in 2005 and both supporting the re-election of Mayor Marty Chávez. I ended up getting dropped from the committee. Anna they did NOT mess with, despite the big fundraising soiree she hosted for Marty at the Hotel Albuquerque. When I would see Anna at La Mexicana and she had a menu suggestion, that was what I was getting for lunch. And she never steered me wrong. So sorry she’s gone.  —Barry Bitzer

'She cared deeply about our state'
Anna Muller was an incredible advocate for New Mexico. I learned a great deal from her during my time on the neighborhood association board and as a neighbor a few blocks away. She would recall stories of attracting big-name movies to downtown Albuquerque or tussling with politicos double and triple her size.  We danced to rancheras (she seemed to be dancing anytime there was music) and we debated the future of New Mexico. What was always clear is that at heart, she cared deeply for our state, its history, and its people. Ms. Anna, you will be sorely missed. Perhaps our early October snowstorm was Anna dancing up a storm in the skies for us.  —Israel S. Chávez

It’s heartbreaking to hear of the passing of our long time board member, advocate and neighbor Anna Muller. She owned and restored many of our cherished properties downtown. RIP, Anna.  —Downtown Neighborhoods Association, via Facebook

'A powerhouse'
I'm very sad to hear of the passing of Ms. Anna Muller. She was a powerhouse in our downtown community (and across the state). Godspeed, my friend. You definitely left your mark in our community.  —Rep. Javier Martinez, via Facebook

We all loved her
Never to be forgotten...Anna Muller "set me straight" on more than on occasion! She hosted me in her home for lunch and let me know I was sitting exactly where a former POTUS sat when she served him the same meal. What a powerhouse who served at the federal level and then came home to support so many NM entrepreneurs. Condolences to all who loved her...we all did.  —State Auditor 
Brian S. Colón, via Facebook
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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