We are honored and pleased to have the support of our downtown community. Here are just a few letters of support to the Downtown Action Team.
February 5, 2013
Dear Mr. Mayor:
Our home is just outside the city limits (Sandia Heights) but we consider ourselves to be loyal and longtime Albuquerque residents.
I am writing today about our downtown.
Today’s paper has a small article about Downtown Action Team’s request for more stable funding from the City. That brought about a bit of action on my part, to finally sit down to write to you regarding my concerns for downtown Albuquerque.
Your ideas for expanding river walks and biopark activities are quite exciting and should be kept in our thoughts.
But for now, I believe we really really must attend to the downtown area. The streets are bumpy and potholey – the attractions are very few (especially the holiday decorations, thank goodness they’re gone for another year) – the plaza and convention center remain large clumsy-looking spaces, unappealing to visitors local and from afar.
I am in the downtown area for hours each week attending church and volunteering at OFFCenter Community Arts Project (808 Park Av SW) – so I drive on the bumpy streets, try to obey the traffic signals which change rapidly, and avoid the “ugly part” of bars/clubs along Central from 2nd to 7th.
Apparently the downtown water and sewer lines are old and difficult. OFFCenter had about three weeks without water due to an underground frozen pipe!
I highly favor the Downtown Action Team – I’m proud to see them picking up and sweeping, to see their bicycle teams greeting folks and to have them occasionally stop by our community art studio!
I love to see Robinson Park, always tidy and pleasant with its trees and grasses. I am delighted with all the murals on buildings, public and private, in the downtown areas. There are a few welcoming shops, cafes and other businesses which deserve all our support.
You have a tough job – mayor/city council folks get all the complaints and little glory. So I want to say I appreciate your commitment to our wonderful community, and encourage you in your efforts.
Just remember, as you approach City Hall, check out the neighboring streets and areas – they need your ideas and attention, too!
Karen H. Turner
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February 13, 2013
Supporting your Community is Good Business
Responsible business has a duty to abide by the rules of the neighborhood they’re located in. This means paying taxes, taking care of employees, and abiding by the community’s rules.
The Journal’s Editorial on Saturday, February 9th, states that the Downtown Action Team came to the City “hat in hand” asking for emergency money to keep operating. What it failed to mention was that that “emergency money” was funding due to the Downtown Action Team for work already performed for the community downtown.
I believe in the Downtown Action Team. I enjoy Robinson Park and the Grower’s Market, and I appreciate the Ambassador program that has made our downtown cleaner, safer, and friendlier. I like a more attractive downtown, and the Central Avenue Railroad Underpass and Downtown Façade Improvement Grants are just two of the many projects they are involved in to make our downtown a more livable place.
But regardless if you agree that the DAT has been a successful addition to Albuquerque, downtown businesses have a legal obligation to pay their dues just like they have a legal obligation to pay their taxes, and the City has a legal obligation to collect those dues. If the City can’t collect, they should fund DAT until they figure out how to make that happen.
We need more local businesses that realize supporting our community is the best way to do business. Until we get there, we need the political courage to encourage our businesses to uphold their obligations.
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Re: Journal Editorial
February 10, 2013
I was rather mystified reading the Journal’s editorial of February 9th, Downtown Group Should Make Case for Money, regarding the request by the Downtown Action Team (DAT) to the city to assist in their funding operations; funding operations that are deficient due to lack of collection of property assessment fees by the city within the Business Improvement District (BID). The BID was established by a majority of property owners within the District, and renewed again by property owners last year.
From my perspective, the city isn’t getting DAT “out of a jam,” instead the city is assisting the Business Improvement District (BID) property owners board, whose staff operates as the Downtown Action Team, administers and coordinates the adopted property owner’s business plan for the BID. Rather than being a “bail out”, the funds requested by DAT are a good faith financial offering by the city while the city catches up with it’s statutory obligation to collect the property owner’s self-assessment fees (which your previous articles have stated city officials are working on).
As a former board member of Historic Albuquerque, Inc. and the President of the New Mexico Route 66 Association during the partnership with the city hosting the National Diamond Jubilee of the “Mother Road,” as director of DAT some 16 years ago, and a long-time resident of Albuquerque, I can testify to the tremendous positive revitalization changes within the district the BID has produced. With safer, cleaner streets has come major private sector reinvestment in property, housing, business development and more diverse opportunities for entertainment. The revitalization of Gold Street alone stands testament to creating a supportive economic environment that stimulates private sector investment into property and businesses.
Downtown Albuquerque is the victim of the good intentions of the HUD urban renewal policies of the 1960’s. In hindsight, these policies were deeply flawed leaving city leaders and commercial neighborhood districts with massive swaths of land cleared of their historic buildings and the businesses and residences they once housed. The cost of redevelopment left unfulfilled decade after decade is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. No wonder downtown sat undeveloped for so many years.
Driven in recent years by a downtown strategic plan and consistent public-private sector cooperation, some of those huge holes have been in-filled. There are other long-term vacant lots in the process of planning and development. I say three cheers for the elected leaders, administrators, property and business owners and civic and nonprofit revitalization groups like DAT that have stuck with a dogged determination and belief that downtown is becoming a great center to our city.
If the BID is dissolved I would be concerned for the City Departments, which will need to address the services provided by the property owners through their BID. We take for granted the work of the BID board of property and business owners. In eleven short years we have forgotten what downtown was like pre-BID. No clean and sweep programs, no ambassador programs to assist visitors and provide auxiliary support for safety, no marketing of the business district. The property owners pay for this now through the BID. Is it perfect? No. Is it a heckuva lot better than eleven years ago, you bet! Which Department budgets will these services come from?
I am not naïve. Downtown Albuquerque has a long way to go to restore all its once vibrant and economically vital downtown streets. It still has vacant lots begging for a developer. It still needs to invest in major adaptive reuses for its empty commercial buildings. It still has all the challenging dynamics of an urban center. The city is a great partner to drive the public infrastructure improvements, but the marketing and repositioning of downtown for the creative economy must come from the private nonprofit sector side of that partnership.
As Director of New Mexico’s MainStreet Program for the past 10 years, we have been one of the partners assisting with resources, training and support of DAT and its BID. The most positive lesson of recent history in urban renewal is; where there is forged a strong public-private partnership, work gets done and needed private sector reinvestment for redevelopment happens. More recently New Mexico MainStreet has begun investing in downtown’s cultural economy through the state’s Arts and Cultural District Program. A group of arts, cultural and revitalization leaders within downtown are collaborating and leveraging resources to strengthen downtown as a Cultural and Heritage destination.
Here are other encouraging public-private sector investment projects that the Journal has omitted from its recent editorial:
- Mayor Berry’s Route 66 Corridor Plan
- Fourth Street Mall Redevelopment
- The recent community driven updates to the Downtown Sector Plan
- Redevelopment on the Triangle area at 9th Street
- UNM School of Architecture’s “CityLab” partnership with the Mayor’s Office and DAT
- The upcoming completion of the Arts and Cultural District Cultural Plan through the hard work of a number of partners including the City’s Cultural Services Department, Creative Albuquerque, DAT, and the State Arts and Cultural District Council and many other players and cultural institutions.
- The recent renovations and upgrades to the KiMo Theatre through the Cultural Services Department and generous private sector donors
- And, I’m not going to even try to list all of the business owners making improvements and investments.
There is way too much work to do and all willing hands and resources needed to help in the years ahead. Both the public and private sectors need to continue to step up to the plate and put aside personal disagreements to build what all players want: An economically thriving downtown Albuquerque for property owners, businesses, residents, visitors and tourists.