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Albuquerque: City of Blight

A lovely South Broadway junkyard
A lovely South Broadway junkyard

When thinking about the look of Albuquerque it’s hard to stay positive. On one hand we have great mountains that turn pink at sunset, almost constantly pretty skies, the fading but still beautiful Rio Grande, an abundance of interesting signs, a giant lumberjack, a roller coaster, Old Town, UNM campus, The KiMo and The Occidental Building. On the other hand the city is plagued with abandoned buildings, empty lots, junkyards, ongoing sprawl, graffiti, a giant green monolith that houses Wells Fargo and various other forms of blight.

Who knows what can be done about the Wells Fargo building, but for a long time it’s seemed to me that there is a simple solution to the dirt lot problem: Why doesn’t the city or a charitable organization buy those properties and create parks, squares or other outdoor public spaces? For instance, wouldn't it be nice if the empty lot at Walter and Central, once the location of the Gaslight Motel, was a community garden,?

Sadly nobody could cash-in on that, so there’s problem number one—it’s more lucrative to build upscale condos (but wait, how’s that working out for you, condo-builders?), and Albuquerque has never been one to pass up a quick buck or really be thoughtful about community planning. Problem number two dawned on me yesterday when I was walking Downtown after work. The homeless, the drug-addicted and the crazy—a seemingly significant portion of our population (and some of which I suspect are bussed in from other cities)—tend to claim Albuquerque parks as their homes, and when that happens, the general public won’t spend time there. Parks then just become a more tragic form of blight.

Albuquerque just can’t have anything good, can it?


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