• A new connection from 12th to Sawmill is back on the agenda for 2021
  • With the city pursuing other properties, Coronado Park may not host a homeless services site after all
  • Landscaping along 2nd, fronting the Rail Yards, is set to start this summer
A new connection from 12th to Sawmill is back on the agenda for 2021
The new stretch of road (red dashed line) would connect Bellamah, which currently deadends about 850 feet west of 12th, to a small road (dotted line) that runs past Ponderosa Brewing and the future home of the Tierra Adentro charter school before joining 18th.
The idea has been kicking around for the better part of a decade, but a plan to extend Bellamah from 12th into the heart of Sawmill - creating a rare east-west connection through the neighborhood - is now in the works and will be put up for public scrutiny later this year, City Council analyst Diane Dolan told DAN.

The plan, which is slated to be completed in the late spring or summer, would also involve a connection to Lumberton, a small north-south street, and pedestrian amenities clear back to 12th, Dolan said.

Take a look at a map of Sawmill, and it's easy to see why such an idea might gain traction. The general lack of east-west connections is such that a trip between 12th and Rio Grande necessitates a detour to either I-40 or Mountain, though for bicyclists and pedestrians in the know there are a few shortcuts.

Besides shaving a couple of minutes off of some commutes, making it easier for more people to get to businesses like Ponderosa Brewing, the future home of the Tierra Adentro charter school (DAN, 10/20/20), and several other smaller shops along the road might well prove an economic boon, reckons Rashan Jones, the board president of the Sawmill Community Land Trust, the organization that controls much of the land in the area.

"It would bring in more people, which is great," Jones said.

But the prospect of more traffic is enough to scare off some neighbors, said Jaime Leaños, the president of the Sawmill Area Neighborhood Association. He's done some informal canvassing with neighbors about the project and reports that "they were not necessarily very happy about it."

The neighborhood's relative isolation can tamp down crime and noise, Leaños noted, and getting to and from is still pretty easy despite the lack of thru streets.

(Depending on how people take to it, a new connection might entail further traffic calming efforts along parts of the road untouched by the actual extension work, Dolan said.)

But that's just a preview of the possible arguments. The actual discussions will happen later this year.

"Ultimately we'll take it to the neighborhood and see what the neighborhood thinks," said Jones. "My official stance is wait and see and it could be good."
With the city pursuing other properties, Coronado Park may not host a homeless shelter after all
Mayor Tim Keller, speaking at a virtual press briefing in front of the former Bischoff law offices at 4th and I-40, directly west of Coronado Park. The city purchased the building last year and is using it as office space.
Just one year ago, the idea of locating some kind of homeless shelter or services center at Coronado Park could have been rated somewhere between "quite plausible" and "pretty likely."

Mayor Tim Keller himself had mentioned the possibility as a backup for his first choice, a property near Lomas and I-40 that its owner, UNM, ultimately vetoed. Elected officials like City Councilor Isaac Benton and County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley were on board with at least a small-scale facility. The city even purchased the former Bischoff law offices, located just west of Coronado, and top Keller deputy Lawrence Rael remarked that the space could come in extra handy in the event something was built at the park. The Wells Park Neighborhood Association, meanwhile, took the prospect seriously enough to kick off an extensive "Save Coronado Park" campaign.

But as regular meetings on a broader homelessness response continued through the fall and into the winter, the prospect of a big construction project at the park - or even a small one - began to fade.

Rael announced that the city was trying to buy property near HopeWorks or Healthcare for the Homeless, service providers located near Mountain and 2nd. Keller himself announced last month that the city would also attempt to purchase a former Lovelace hospital on Gibson (DAN, 12/9/20), though the move is still tied up in court.

Should the city succeed on both fronts, it could end up spending most if not all of the $14 million that voters in 2019 gave it to deal with homelessness. Keller ballparked the city's contribution to the Gibson facility alone at $10 million (though some could come from the federal CARES Act), and an acquisition near Mountain and 2nd would eat into that further.

The neighborhood association would be none too pleased about another service center locating at its southern border, but it may well be that the project, along with the Gibson purchase, end up helping to keep Coronado Park as a park.

Keller acknowledged as much at a December press briefing: "I have never been a strong advocate that we should do anything at Coronado Park," he said. "Our plans are to go elsewhere, but we have to make sure we can actually get those properties under control. So there's still a lot that remains to be seen."
Landscaping along 2nd, fronting Rail Yards, is set to start this summer
The approximately 1,800 feet worth of landscaping will be located on the east side of 2nd.
The east side of 2nd adjacent to the Rail Yards isn't presently much to look at - unless you enjoy bare ground and uninviting fencing. But that is slated to change over the summer with the installation of $2 million worth of sidewalks, landscaping, and art, city officials told a neighborhood meeting in December.

Final designs are still being worked out ahead of a projected start to construction this summer, but planners said they would pay special attention to sprucing up the intersection of 2nd and Santa Fe, which neighbors have singled out as a prime method for connecting people to the commercial corridor on 4th as well as the zoo and bosque trail a little over half a mile to the west.

The project would not include a planned trail north toward the Downtown core, though the city is formalizing an agreement with BNSF Railway to set aside a strip of land for that project, Rail Yards project manager Ed Adams said.

The landscaping project will also take into account a future roundabout at the intersection of 1st and 2nd, though the city is still attempting to condemn a triangle of land that it will need to make that happen (DAN, 11/2/20), and there's currently no money for the actual construction.

"We will be trying to put it in the right place consistent with the roundabout design," Adams said of the landscaping. "I suspect it's just a matter of time before the city owns the property."

Added City Councilor Isaac Benton: "If people like that roundabout then we'll figure out a way to get it funded - hopefully [this] year."
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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