The vacant land sandwiched between Coronado and Winrock Malls is destined to become a mixed-use urban village. Meanwhile, the project managers, Hunt-Uptown, are causing a fuss over Coronado Mall’s redevelopment plans across the street.
City councilors began the April 4 meeting an hour early, shunted 14 bills to a land use meeting and slogged past the 10:30 p.m. deadline, but the last few weeks' backlog of bills just piled higher. The single thing councilors didn't discuss, having vented earlier at an afternoon press conference, was the current APD ruckus.
Councilor Michael Cadigan's bill allowing the council to change silly, misspelled or insulting street names as long as no structure has been built on the street passed unanimously. Another Cadigan bill allowing safety covers on residential swimming pools combined with four-foot high walls as an alternate to six-foot walls passed 6-2; Councilors Sally Mayer and Tina Cummins opposed.
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Selling Only 10 Percent Chicago-based General Growth Properties, owner of Coronado Center near Louisiana and Menaul, proposed remodeling the two-story portion of the current mall, tearing down most of the older east end retail stores to rebuild them as an open-air "urban village," and adding an 18-screen theater. The project won approval from the Environmental Planning Commission and the Land Use Hearing officer. However, Hunt-Uptown, LLC, and Hunt-Uptown II, LLC, who are building a mixed-use development across Louisiana on the old St. Pius High School property, appealed to the Council to reverse the approval. Opponents argued that the Coronado site plan did not meet the Uptown Sector Development Plan's goal of no more than 10 percent retail in new developments, and had not had air quality studies done.
Timothy Flynn-O'Brien, representing Hunt-Uptown, said the Coronado project vacated existing space and rebuilt in the parking lot, triggering the 10 percent limit on retailing guideline. Attorney John Myers said, "This evening will decide whether 30 years of [planning] effort will go down the tubes." Cadigan blasted the lack of air quality studies, without receiving any clear rebuttal. General Growth architect Jamie Rusin said, "Coronado today is dark and dated." He said the project was a rejuvenation rather than new construction, and that the area slated for 10 percent retail was actually south of the Coronado property. Councilor Martin Heinrich asked how the 10 percent rule would ever apply if Coronado didn't follow it. The project was denied 7-2, Councilors Sally Mayer and Eric Griego opposed.
Coronado needs refurbishing, the proposed development looked appealing, and the legal aspects seem debatable. And it's not surprising that those opposing the Coronado project comprise their across-Louisiana competitors. But don't cry for General Growth Properties, the nation's second largest shopping mall owner. They recently pulled a similar stunt in Glendale, Calif., trying unsuccessfully to stop a new "open-air lifestyle center" adjacent to their Galleria property in that city. Currently, "lifestyle centers" are all the fashion, mimicking the real downtowns killed off by the malls. But will these new private "public" spaces still throw you out if you wear T-shirts with terroristic messages like "Peace" or "Stop Consuming"?
Selling the Sizzle Dogged by shrinking bookings, Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) had to bid against one competitor to market the convention center and city. Mayor Martin Chavez recommended ACVB receive the contract, but Councilor Miguel Gomez sponsored two bills specifying a one-year contract and performance goals for ACVB.
Heavy hitters in the local tourism industry, citing 9-11 as one cause of decreased tourism, called for a four-year contract for ACVB and said the group had dramatically improved in the last 15 months. Councilor Craig Loy's amendment extended the contract to two years with a further two-year option. The amended bill passed unanimously.
Can we please retire 9-11 as a generic excuse? As nightmarish as it was, that horror is three-and-a-half years in the past. More likely reasons for slow tourism are insane deficits, endlessly outsourced jobs and rising fuel prices. But somebody's doing something; the day after the April 4 Council, I received an e-mail bulletin from the ACVB for the first time.
Selling the Sky Pie Mayor Chavez recommended a new firm, Interspace Airport Advertising, to develop and advertise concessions at the Sunport. The CEO of Interspace said the company had increased their business from eight to 180 airports, implying their good service has led to success.
John Kelly, representing the current concessionaire, said Interspace guaranteed only a $255,000 yearly return to the city, as opposed to the current guaranteed $300,000. The Council approved the Interspace recommendation 6-2, Heinrich and Cadigan opposed.
Albuquerque's airport, with its impressive art collection, architecture and antique biplane, is appealing and distinctively New Mexican. I hope the Sunport's qualities don't disappear in an explosion of frenetic merchandising.
No Free Selling! Cadigan sponsored an ordinance increasing the fine from $300 to $500 for posting commercial handbills or signs in a right-of-way or putting them under windshield wipers. Developers will be able to use special kiosks for real estate signs.
Cadigan cited complaints from realtors about handwritten sales signs. Loy asked if the ordinance covered "lost dog" signs on telephone polls. Cadigan said it only covered commercial signs. The bill passed unanimously.
I like amateur signs. Best one I ever saw was cardboard on a stick on Los Lunas's Main Street. It read, "Jeannie, I love you, please come home. I'll be good and you can have beer with your PMS."