Opposition to ART
What I know of ART is that it would transform Central from a major center of commerce and activity into a chokepoint in a city completely dependent on the smooth flow of traffic. I have a master’s degree from the Institute for Social Ecology at Goddard College in Vermont and I have studied sustainable development for 25 years. I am a fan of progressive development alternatives and the improvement of the University Heights neighborhood where I have lived, developed apartments, and worked for almost 20 years; and where I served as vice president and president of the University Heights Neighborhood Association.
ART is a wrongheaded approach to the goal of improving Central and the surrounding community because it attempts to impose a transit system that the community is not ready for and which will hurt local businesses far more than it can ever help them. ART wants people to drive to the bus (with no parking provided) then take the bus into the district or up and down Central and then go back to their cars, yet no parking lots are provided for. This is a non-starter in a southwestern auto-based city spread out over several miles.
What we need the most out of any development proposals for our area is in-fill development! We need Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods in Nob Hill or, even better, grants to expand La Montañita Co-op and make it more competitive as a community-based, member-owned business. We need art centers and movie opportunities in walking distance to the community. We need comedy clubs, real music venues that go the next step beyond Club Rhythm and Blues which should have never shut down. We need music along the streets of Central, Silver and around the university campus. It’s sad that we have so few and such small venues of quality like the Outpost.
What should this money be all about? It should be about putting money into in-fill development for the existing properties in the depressed communities along Central and expanding the bus service to be a success throughout Albuquerque—there is enough money to turn the “Student Ghetto” into a solar-powered, community garden-centered, arts community which it would truly be if the money were there. The people are there in consciousness already.
And fix up the alleys, make them walkways that are safe and warm, inviting, with call boxes and lighting, and walk and bike friendly pavement. Channel the local community into the center while improving housing with grants for solar power, remodeling with adobe style and beautiful fences and gardens. Create events like the Walk of the Farolitos you see on Canyon Road in Santa Fe—make Silver Hills, University Heights and Nob Hill places where traffic can be shut down for special events like the shop and stroll, but don’t make it impossible for traffic to get into the area year round.
Develop a European village feeling or a Pueblo feeling if you will, but don’t try to create a transit system in the middle of what makes Historic Central a primary artery east and west. We need pedestrian and bike traffic easily moving north and south in our communities along Central; then you will see this economy take off. The city has failed east-west transit and safety in our city by transforming Lead and Coal. People in this city benefit most by the ease of access from one part of the city to another and people love the ease of access we have over long distances—we gain very little by West siders being able to catch public transit from their car to a shopping point, thus doubling the time to get to a place already challenged by the resurgent malls in our town. This proposal would be great in Portland or New York or Boston, but it does not fit Albuquerque. Create a village first before forcing people to live and shop in one. Link our community to Uptown, Corrales, Rio Rancho and Los Ranchos with rapid transit, yes! But do not destroy the things that make our community great. Listen to our local business people—expand the reliability of the bus system to the places that need it the most—the South Valley, International District, North Valley and Northeast Heights. Support the local culture around Nob Hill, house the homeless and mentally ill with services and improve local housing opportunities through grants and incentives for remodeling in-fill infrastructure with this money. Most importantly, stop running roughshod over this precious space of real culture: our community. Mayor Berry and City Council, you have to put this 120 million dollar project up for a vote first or you will earn the wrath of the majority in our city.