Submitted by Dale Dekker, Founding Principal Dekker Perich Sabatini & Paul Silverman, Founding Partner, Geltmore LLC
This letter is provided as opinion/commentary from the authors. You can submit your own letter to firstname.lastname@example.org
With the recent announcement of the City and the State contributing funds to the Albuquerque Rail Trail, Albuquerque is poised to see tremendous growth in the downtown core. While we are thrilled that the project is finally happening, there is one more key component that if not considered will see this great project not reach its full potential.
For decades we’ve been talking about connecting and celebrating Albuquerque’s “String of Pearls” – Old Town and the Zoo, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the Sawmill District, the Museum District, Downtown, the Railyards and UNM/Nob Hill. While the Rail Trail is a great first step, we must realize that most people will not walk nor ride bikes to visit the full string. What’s needed now more than ever is an electric trolley – a people mover – like what you see in all of our competitive markets – Tucson, Phoenix, Denver, Austin.
With an effective transit system to move people from point to point, we can eliminate some of the surface parking in Downtown and instead create new multi-purpose developments where people can live, work and play. A dense Downtown will lead to more companies wanting to move to Albuquerque, and a vibrant city is good for everyone – locals, visitors and businesses.
Visit Albuquerque is working hard to bring conventions to Downtown. The updated and remodeled Albuquerque Convention Center is world class, but no visitor is going to walk from the Convention Center to Old Town or the Sawmill District. We have to have a practical and reliable way to move people from Point A to Point B and to showcase all that’s great in Albuquerque.
Other cities have successfully created vibrant urban cores, which has led to increased tourism, increased housing and increased employment. The Katy Trail (which is very similar to the proposed ABQ Rail Trail) in Dallas now has 25,000 multi-family units built along the trail. According to a New York Times article about the impact of the trail, “the trail’s construction and improvements over nearly two decades have helped transform Dallas’ Uptown from a blighted empty expanse into what many consider to be the only true ‘live, work, play’ urban neighborhood in a city known for suburban sprawl.”
Tucson, which is about the size of Albuquerque, has successfully built light rail that connects the University of Arizona and downtown. They’ve seen an incredible resurgence in growth as well as visitation. According to Rio Nuevo, the Tucson Downtown Revitalization organization, there has been $2 billion of economic impact by the new developments in Downtown Tucson in the last five years, and Tucson is now named one of the top five cities to watch post-pandemic.
The State is sitting on more capital than we’ve ever had in the history of New Mexico. Smart investments will yield results for many generations. A vibrant, cool, hip and fun City means our young people will stay instead of leaving for greener pastures. It also means our economic developers will have a much easier sell. And the more activity we have in these key areas, the less we will deal with homelessness and panhandlers.
City and State leaders – do we take bold actions now and make strategic investments that will forever change our trajectory? Now is the time for our city to move from “Good to Great” and connecting our city’s unique “String of Pearls” not just for tourists and convention attendees but for all New Mexicans will be a jewel in our city’s crown for years and decades to come.