Albuquerque City Council unanimously approved a bill Monday night that supports a comprehensive plan for redevelopment of a stretch along Menaul Boulevard, just north of Interstate 40.
Eight City Councilors voted in favor of Tammy Fiebelkorn's (District 7) bill that called for the approval the Menaul Metropolitan Redevelopment Area Plan. This plan encourages various economic development strategies and outlines several opportunities along a section of Menaul Boulevard between I-25 and the North Diversion Channel in Midtown Albuquerque.
Albuquerque’s Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee passed the bill to the City Council in April, and it was sent back for final approval.
The City Council's approval of the bill marks the culmination a two-year legislative process. Diane Gibson, a former Albuquerque City Councilor, and Joani Joss, general manager of Crowne Plaza Albuquerque, which is located within the redevelopment area, along with other community members, launched a plan in 2021 to revitalize this area of Midtown.
According to the City of Albuquerque website, the Albuquerque City Council has approved a Menaul Development Study for November 2021. In May 2022, the City Council passed a bill defining the boundary of the redevelopment zone and establishing the "findings of Blight."
Fiebelkorn, the current councilor, then introduced the bill that was just passed in January this year to approve the proposed plan for redevelopment. The plan had been revised at public meetings held in August 2022 and November 2022. Fiebelkorn’s office did not respond to an inquiry for comments on the bill’s passage at the time of publication.
Private developers and the City Planning Department are now working to implement the strategies laid out in the plan. These could include projects such as hotel and motel renovations, electric vehicle charger stations and a visitor center.
Jacqueline Fishman - a consultant from the New Mexico firm Consensus Planning - described to City Councilors some of the development opportunities in the plan during Monday's meeting.
Fishman stated during the Council Meeting that it had been a pleasure to work on the project over the past two years. "Like many others, I am eager to see the downward trend reversed in this Midtown Albuquerque area."
Ronald Bohannan of Tierra West LLC spoke at the meeting for the owner of an opportunity site outlined in this plan. It is located on the corner of Menaul Boulevard, Phoenix Avenue and Vassar Drive, east of Vassar Drive, and west of North Diversion Channel.
The site is situated on one of the two landfill zones in the area covered by the Redevelopment Plan.
Bohannan stated during the meeting that "we have completed our phase one of the landfill." "We have now started the process of identifying and characterization to begin quantifying the contents in the landfill, which is a first step towards redevelopment." Bohannan said during the meeting.
He said that the owner intends to develop the site with affordable housing, which is one of the goals of the plan.
The plan proposes that private developers drive the redevelopment of the area through projects that target different opportunity sites, such as the one between Vassar Drive & the North Diversion Channel. The plan also highlights other opportunity sites, including one on the south-side of Menaul Boulevard near University Boulevard and Fairfield Drive. Another site combines the abandoned restaurants of Little Anita's Range Cafe and Village Inn on both the north and the south sides of Menaul Boulevard.
According to the vision statement, the overall goal of the plan was to turn that part of Midtown into a "vibrant and walkable business district" for residents, hotel guests and workers.
Jones, Crowne Plaza's general manager, says that the more than 1,500 hotel rooms and motel units in the area are ripe for redevelopment.
Some infrastructure and transportation improvements, such as traffic calming measures and upgrades to sidewalks, are intended to encourage more people to travel to the area.
Jones, a Crowne Plaza employee since 1993, says that the construction of "The Big I", an interchange between I-25 & I-40, caused a decline in this area. This downturn, which resulted in less business traffic as well as fewer travelers and guests, forced some businesses to close.