Within the City of Albuquerque, there exists what are referred to as Metropolitan Redevelopment Areas. There are 19 known and approved Metropolitan Redevelopment Areas (MRA) and they are as follows:
The North Corridor Redevelopment Area
Saw Mill Wells Park Redevelopment Area
Downtown 2025 Redevelopment Area
Easdowntown/Hunning Highlands/South Martinez Town Redevelopment Area
Railroad Yards Metropolitan Redevelopment Area
Historic Central Redevelopment Area
The St. Joseph Hospital Redevelopment Area
Barelas Redevelopment Area
Sucamore Redevelopment Area
South Barelas Industrial Park
South Broadway Redevelopment Area
The West Central Redevelopment Area
The Central/Highland/Upper Nob Hill Redevelopment Area
The East Central Redevelopment Area
West Central Redevelopment Area
Near Heights Redevelopment Area
The Soldiers and Sailors Park Redevelopment Area
The Clayton Heights/Lomas Del Cielo Redevelopment Area
East Gateway Redevelopment Area
A map of the city identifying the specific location of the 19 MRAs can be found at this link:
ADOPTED REDEVELOPMENT PLAN GUIDLINES
Each redevelopment area has an adopted redevelopment plan that guides the City’s redevelopment strategy. Applicants who want to create a city sanctioned Redevelopment Area must be the current property owner or an entity with a fully executed option to purchase the property. There is a $2,000 application fee.
In order to create a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area the following criteria will be considered:
- The property’s current zoning, zoning of surrounding properties and the property’s potential for medium- and/or high-density development;
- The property’s designation in the 2017 Comprehensive Plan including designation as an area of Change/Consistency, location in a Center/Corridor, location on a Main Street Corridor, or other;
- The property’s potential for reinvestment given site location
- Whether the property itself meets the criteria for MRA inclusion OR
- Whether reinvestment in the property would catalyze investment in the MRA area broadly;
- How inclusion would further the goals and strategies articulated in the existing MRA plan.
Since the inclusion of the property runs with land and would be in place for future owners and projects, the MRA shall not take into consideration the specifics of the current applicant’s proposed use and project.
THE MENAUL METROPOLITAN REDEVELOPMENT AREA PLAN
There is a 20th MRA being applied for city approval and developed known as the Menaul Metropolitan Redevelopment Area plan. The Menaul Boulevard corridor is characterized by its important role within the economy of Albuquerque. The area is well located and central to the city with access to both Interstate 40 (I40) and Interstate 25 (I25) and in close proximity to the rail lines and the airport. There are stable and well-established neighborhoods to the north.
Menaul is home to many locally owned small businesses that provide retail, dining options, and other services, as well as larger retail and hospitality chains. Generally, the retail and service business are located along Menaul, with hotels located in proximity to I25 and I40. Generally, light industrial and storage uses are located between Menaul and I40, and between Menaul, Candelaria, I25 and the North Diversion channel.
While this is a very important area for supporting Albuquerque’s economic development, it is also an area that has problems with crime, and vacant or under-utilized buildings. The purpose of this project is to support the redevelopment and ongoing economic development of the Menaul Boulevard area. The area that this report will be focusing on are all of the non-residential properties in the area bounded by I25 (west), Candelaria (north), San Mateo (east), and I40 (south).
MENAUL METROPOLITAN REDEVELOPMENT AREA PLAN MOVES FOREWARD
On February 16, the Albuquerque Development Commission heard a presentation on the Menaul Metropolitan Redevelopment Area plan where adoption was urged and considered. Presenters said the Menaul Metropolitan Redevelopment Area plan is a potential lifeline of hope for an area that’s been plagued with crime. Simply put the plan would revamp the Menaul Corridor area. The Albuquerque Development Commission voted to recommend that the City Council approve the Menaul Metropolitan Redevelopment Area plan to revamp the area and now awaits it awaits approval from City Hall.
The area of focus run along Menaul between I-25 and the Diversion Channel, extending south to I-40, as well as one block north. It comes after a study into the chronic crime that has prompted longstanding businesses to abandon the area in recent years. The study recommended upgrades like better lighting, cameras, trail upgrades and a police substation. Last year the council passed a resolution prioritizing funding for those improvements.
Multiple businesses have closed down in the area in the last few years, including the Range Café in 2020. Crime is stretched out through the area, but other things have warranted concern from some business owners, like the homeless population. Tyler Fabian, owner of Urban 360 Pizza said told the commission this:
“I’m pretty sure that turns away business, especially since we have a patio out here, people like to sit outside and not be bothered.”
The city is hoping to change a few main lots of land in the area. The city also wants to work on better communication between business owners who reside there. The development commission is really hammering to fix public safety in the area.
“SAFE OUTDOOR SPACE” TO HOUSE VICTIMS OF SEX TRAFFICKING IN TENTS BORDERING ON MENAUL CORRIDOR METROPOLITAN REDEVELOPMENT AREA
A “Safe Outdoor Space” is a lot, or a portion of a lot, developed to permit homeless encampments with 40 designated spaces for tents, allow upwards of 50 people, require hand washing stations, toilets and showers, require a management plan, fencing and social services offered. It was Mayor Tim Keller who in his Apri 1 proposed city buget, which was approved by the city council, that initially came up with the “Safe Outdoor Spaces” concept when he included and received city council approval of $950,000 in his 2022-2023 budget for establishment and development of the city sanction tent encampments.
APPROVED SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES
The city Planning Department has approved 3 Safe Outdoor Spaces and they will be allowed to exist and operate. Two are designed for people to sleep in cars rather than tents and are located outside existing homeless shelters. The first is operating outside the city’s Westside Emergency Housing Center. The second a is due to open in January outside the Albuquerque Opportunity Center shelter at 715 Candeleria NE. The city has partnered with the nonprofit Heading Home to launch the first two.
A third Safe Outdoor Space is Dawn Legacy Point homeless encampment to be located at 1250 Menaul Blvd, NE. It is intended to provide accommodations for upwards of 50 women who are homeless and who are “sex-trafficking victims” and other vulnerable populations. It would operate under a 6 month licensing agreement with a possible 6 month renewal. It was first approved by the Planning Department behind closed doors without giving proper and legally required notice to surrounding property owners.
The Dawn Legacy Point safe outdoor space homeless encampment has generated major opposition and there are 6 appellants. Opposing it are the Santa Barbara Martineztown Neighborhood Association, the nonprofit LifeROOTS , the Crowne Plaza hotel, Sunset Memorial Park cemetery, the Greater Albuquerque Hotel & Lodging Association and the company that runs the Ramada Plaza hotel.
In December 22, the Planning Department once again granted approval for the safe outdoor space at the Menaul site. At least 7 entities are fighting Dawn Legacy Pointe’s new approval. They argue that the project will harm an area already grappling with problems, that Dawn Legacy Pointe’s plans, including for security, are all insufficient and that the city is not protecting the community.
The Legacy Point encampment is within walking distance of Menaul School, across the street from the T-Mobile Call Center and a Quality Inn & Suites, it borders Sunset Memorial Park and one block Carrington College and two apartment complexes and immediately East of the Freeway is the massive TA Travel Truck which is known in law enforcement circles for prostitution and illicit drug activity. Immediate south of the truck stop on University Blvd is the Crown Plaza Hotel. Six appeals have been filed and a hearing officer sent the approval back to the Planning Department and finding that the city had not required the operator to first notify all the necessary property owners nearby.
LifeROOTS, one of the appellants, wrote in its appeal that the city “has no plan whatsoever to address and mitigate the impacts on the surrounding property owners and community at large.”
Menaul School and the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Association have argued that the City Planning Department and the Family Community Services Department gave the Dawn Legacy Point applicant preferential treatment by searching for and identifying city own property to be used for the Safe Outdoor Space and with the Family Community Services Department committing funding for the safe outdoor space before it was approved,
Menaul School wrote in its appeal:
“It is clear that the issuing of the permit to Dawn Legacy Pointe has been tainted from the start by the weighing of the (city’s) Department of Family & Community Services’ thumb upon the scales.”
Dawn Legacy Pointe for its part has said its operations plan, including the cite’s security plan, underwent a review as part of its approval process and all such projects must have fences with lockable gates, background checks for operators and residents and 24/7 staffing. Katie Simon, a spokesperson for Dawn Legacy Pointe, said this:
“Data from other cities demonstrate that Safe Outdoor Spaces do not contribute to an increase of crime. … Safe outdoor spaces are a useful resource for people living on the street and to mitigate unsanctioned encampments.”
Links to news source material are here:
APPEAL HEARD BY CITY LAND USE HEARING OFFICER
On February 27, a daylong hearing on the appeal of the city’s orginal approval of the Dawn Legacy point Safe Outdoor Spaces to be located at 1250 Menaul Blvd, NE. was held before a Land Use Hearing Officer Steve Chavez. The appeal has been pending for 6 months. Although some prep work has been done by the city on the property, the lots are still empty.
The six appellants include the Albuquerque Hotel Lodgers Association, the Ramada Plaza Hotel, Sunset Memorial Park, Life Roots, Menaul School, and the Santa Barbara Martinez Town Neighborhood Association. The groups told the hearing officer that security measures are some of their biggest concerns.
All Seven organization appealing the approval expressed their frustrations against the site saying the city failed in notifying them of the looming sanctioned encampment. Attorney John Salazar, representing the Crowne Plaza Hotel, told the hearing officer “The problem is that this [aproval of the SOS] was a secret proceeding. We had no opportunity to discuss their application until now”. Attorney Jacques Chouinard added “The application is insufficient under the terms of the Integrated Development Ordinance. … It fails to adhere to the use specific standards for security plans and services provisions.
The city council passed an amendment passed last November requesting the sites include security measures through a new ordinance. Albuquerque’s Planning Department’s Code Compliance Manager Angelo Metzgar said the Menual SOS cite is exempt and said “This application was deemed complete before that took effect so therefore it would not need to.”
Kylea Good with Dawn Legacy Pointe told the hearing officer that security has been contracted to oversee the site 24/7 once operations are up and running. Good said their focus is to help those in need and she said “That is what nonprofits do. If we can’t serve you I’m going to try and find some but that can…it’s not like we are looking at doing the intakes on site.”
Santa Barbara Martinez Town Neighborhood Association President, Loretta Naranjo-Lopez told the hearing officer “The continuation of these services that are coming in brings even more homeless to our area”. Crowne Plaza Hotel Manager, Joani Jones said “I feel like it’s going to be a magnet for the homeless to come down to that particular area.”
Karl Holme, executive director of the Greater Albuquerque Hotel and Lodging Association testified on behalf of his association during the hearing, She said this:
“We feel this encampment will only attract more illicit traffic and hasten the decline of midtown. Just because the SOS application meets all the IDO requirements, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for this location.”
Lindsey Gilbert, president and head of Menual School, also testified against the SOS. Menaul School, a faith-based boarding school that’s been part of the neighborhood for decades. Gilbert said this:
“Based on who our community is– children, international students who don’t know America well, who don’t know what’s safe and unsafe, and we’re saying we’re going to mix those two communities together, we can anticipate that this is going to cause problems. … Anything that makes our campus look less safe is bad for our community.”
Elizabeth Holguin, the City’s Deputy Director of Homeless Solutions and Clinical advisor for the city assisted with the cite selection and has spoken in support of the safe outdoor space from the very beginning. Holguin said there are misconceptions about the unhoused population, like they have bad intentions or might be involved in criminal activity. But this space would cater to women who are victims of human or sex trafficking or domestic violence, a population that Holguin says mostly just wants a safe haven.
Holguin said this during the hearing:
“It’s not the only location, it doesn’t have to be this location, but it’s one that met the zoning code, it’s right next to the highway. … It’s actually away from the neighborhood so I thought it would be a good location. … I think that everybody wants to have a solution but every time we propose one it’s maybe not here, not like this. … So it’s difficult to make real progress and be able to test new ideas.”
The hearing officer will take about a month to review the appeal and give a recommendation to City Council. Councilors will then have the final say whether the Safe Outdoor Space Space use for 1250 Menaul Blvd, NE. will move forward.
The links to quoted news sources are here:
PROTEST AGAINST SOS ORIDINANCE
On Monday, February 27, several groups gathered at One Civic Plaza to protest the approved Safe Outdoor Space (SOS) ordinance designed to help ease the city’s homeless crisis, but protests continues to fall on deaf ears. Many voiced their frustrations against the Safe Outdoor Spaces amendments to the Itegrated Development Ordinance aimed at providing temporary relief for those in need, including sex trafficking survivors.
Judy Young with Women Taking Back Our Neighborhood said this:
“This is another piecemeal, throw it together, slap it around. This is not a solution. … It’s not going to help the city. It’s not going to help these sex trafficking victims. There is nothing good that can come out of this. … They have violated so many of our rights to protect those that are trafficked, to protect the neighborhood, to protect the integrity of Albuquerque. They have violated this in every way possible. This site is going to be a disaster not just for the neighborhood, but for the victims who have already been trafficked.”
Some argued the safe outdoor space would be no different than Coronado Park, an unsanctioned encampment shut down by mayor Tim Keller in 2022. Santa Barbara Martinez Town Neighborhood president, Loretta Naranjo Lopez said this:
“We’ve already experienced this with Coronado Park. This isn’t the right location. We think … [victims of sex trafficking] should be in a house, in a facility where they’re getting the treatment that they need and they’re indoors getting indoor showers, indoor bathrooms.”
MENAUL PROPERTY BEING LOOKED AT FOR GARBAGE TRANSFER STATION
In addition to the Dawn Legacy Pointe plan to establish and operate a “safe outdoor space” at 1250 Menaul Blvd, NE to provide a tent encampment for 50 women who are homeless and who are “sex-trafficking victims”, the city’s Solid Waste Department wants to use 1 of the 2 adjoining city owned parcels of land for a garbage transfer station. The transfer station would allow individual city trash trucks to drop off their loads so larger vehicles could then transport the garbage to the landfill. It has been reported that while the city has looked at other sites for the garbage transfer station, the Menaul property is the only location currently under consideration. Solid Waste spokeswoman Emily Moore said the city has not taken steps necessary as of yet to open a transfer station, such as seeking the requisite zone change or the state permit needed for such a facility.
Both KOAT Channel 7 and KRQE News 13 have reported that city bought the 14-acre property on the Northwest corner of the interchange for $6.8 million with the intention of turning it into a solid waste transfer station. There are concerns about the school, businesses, and hotels just across the street as well as the cemetery next door.
Albuquerque Solid Waste Director Matthew Whelan had this to say:
“It’s a great location because it’s centralized in the city and it’s near both of the freeways. … And, by having a centralized location, not only are you going to save time, you’re going to save truck wear and tear, and you’re going to save emissions because now we’re just going to be putting the refuse there, and they’re going to be sending one truck to the landfill. … Our goal is to make it more appealing looking … [This one] … will look like a normal industrial building, you know, it’ll be, like, brown. It’ll have landscaping. … It’ll be, it won’t be like an open pit where we’re just dumping into.”
The Santa Barbara Martineztown Neighborhood Association and Crown Plaza Hotel, two of the appellants of the Dawn Legacy Point Safe Outdoor Space at 1250 Menaul Blvd, NE, are also strongly opposed to the city’s plans for a garbage transfer station at the same location.
Loretta Naranjo Lopez, president of the Santa Barbara Martineztown Neighborhood Association had this to say about the garbage transfer station:
“They’re hiding this from us and they’re not talking to us at all. … And, we’re outraged. I would be asking all these people here, what do you want to see here before they even consider it? … We’re already dealing with the freeway. We have done a health impact statement study and it says 10 miles out, the impact to our health is bad from the freeway. Anything added to it is just going to be a catastrophe. … Every 30 seconds, a [city garbage]truck coming down Menaul and people having their funeral services at the Sunset Memorial with all that noise [is a concern].
Joani Jones, general manager of the Crown Plaza Hotel, which sits just across Interstate 25 from the property said this:
“We’re the heart of the city. The Midtown area is truly in the heart of the city,” … We don’t need the smell. We don’t need people to see that.”
The nearby Stronghurst Neighborhood Association is also opposed to both the Safe Outdoor Space and the garbage transfer station being located at 1250 Menaul Blvd, NE. Bill Sabatini is a very well know and highly respected business person in Albuquerque and he is the president of Stronghurst Neighborhood Association. He said local business owners and others opposing the city’s plans have been meeting for months.
Sabatini said he would like to see the city establish the safe outdoor space and as well as the transfer station in another part of town. He said his organization and those he represents believes that a safe outdoor space will bring more unhoused to the area. He also said a garbage transfer station will be a waste of prime real estate. Sabatini argued that the site could be a showcase for Albuquerque given its location near several hotels and two interstates.
Bill Sabatini had this to say this about the garbage transfer station:
“It’s a bad idea; it’s a dumb idea. … It’s just totally inappropriate for here. … We know it’s not going to smell, they have figured out ways to do that, but the amount of traffic, truck traffic, from the entire east side of the city to that location is ungodly. … That’s just not a good location. That’s a terrible location to put something of that nature right in the middle of the city – (it’s) a highly visible location! … It’s a perfect place to make a positive statement about Albuquerque. … There could be a lot of things that happen here that could be much more beneficial. One idea, for instance, is this would be a great location for either a history museum or some kind of education center.”
Links to the quoted news sources are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Only in the screwed up “Burque World” of Mayor Tim Keller can it be imagined that 2 adjoining lots of prime commercial property own by the city worth upwards of $7 million would be used for a Safe Outdoor Space for a tent encampment for women who are “sex-trafficking victims” and then the city would construct and run a “garbage transfer station” next to it. Now both the Safe Outdoor Space and the Solid Waste Transfer station will literally border on the West of the Menaul Metropolitan Redevelopment Area. The optics are so very representative of the kind of failed Mayor Tim Keller really is and how messed up he operates and thinks.
First, Mayor Keller advocates for “Safe Outdoor Spaces” and sneaks $950,000 in his general fund budget which the City Council haplessly agrees to and allocates. The general public has legitimate concerns that Safe Outdoor Space homeless tent encampments will become crime-infested nuisances, such was the case with Coronado Park. The homeless crisis will not be solved by the city but must be managed with permanent housing assistance and service programs, not nuisance tent encampments.
It’s Keller’s sneaky conduct like this and lack of communication and transparency and ignoring the general public that has resulted in Mayor Tim Keller and his Administration being viewed as very heavy handed and incompetent in dealing with the homeless crisis. In August of last year, the city released the Citizen Perception Survey. The survey found that 70% of citizens surveyed rate the city poorly for its performance in dealing with the homeless crisis. This includes 41% who gave city hall the lowest possible rating. Meanwhile, only 9% gave the city’s homelessness response a favorable review. In other words, 7 times more people rate the city poorly on the issue of the homeless than offer a positive assessment.
Second, Mayor Keller takes steps asking for 100 amendments to the Integrated Development Ordinance with one amendment allowing 2 Safe Outdoor Spaces in each of the 9 City Council Districts for a total of 18. The amendments pass on the slimmest 5-4 vote. When the City Council realizes the mistake they had made as a result of major public outrage and push back, the City Council seeks to reverse course, votes to defund the financing and votes to remove Safe Outdoor Spaces as a permitted use but votes 5-4 for repeal. Keller vetoes the repeal and the defunding despite public opposition and outrage claiming he was elected to make the hard decision essentially ignoring the will of the voters and not wanting to admit how very wrong his policy actually is and the damage it will do.
Third, Keller’s own Family and Community Services Department and Planning Department Officials go out of their way to give preferential treatment and financial aid to the applicants for a Safe Outdoor Space for unhoused woman who are “sex-trafficking victims”. Never mind the fact that victims of sex trafficking need stable and permanent housing and services and placing such women in tents to live is very degrading and revictimizes them again. Safe Outdoor Space city sanctioned homeless encampments are not just an issue of “not in my back yard,” but one of legitimate anger and mistrust by the public against city elected officials and department employees who have mishandled the city’s homeless crisis and who are determined to allow them despite strong public opposition.
Fourth, the Safe Outdoor Space tent encampment to house victims of sex trafficking and the solid was transfer station will now be immediately west of the Metropolitan Redevelopment Area. Both will likely destroy all efforts to revitalize the Menaul corridor and make the city a magnet for the homeless.
With any luck, Tim Keller will move on sometime mid-second term, something he has twice, first as a State Senator and then as State Auditor, because the city cannot afford 3 more years of his failed leadership and hapless zoning changes.