Albuquerque city councilors unanimously approved a measure on Monday, Dec. 2 to officially declare their interest in working with the University of New Mexico in developing UNM’s south campus.
The new development would include a retail and entertainment center, as well as an expanded science and technology research complex.
The non-binding resolution was led by Councilor Pat Davis, whose District 6 seat includes most of UNM, and District 2 Councilor Isaac Benton.
"The city is willing to lend its taxing authority to help with development, and UNM is willing to develop the property in a way that is most beneficial to the city," Davis said.
Councilors are looking to move forward with a Tax Increment for Development District (TIDD) for the 90-acre UNM south campus property at Avenida Cesar Chavez and I-25. Future gross receipts taxes would be diverted to UNM to pay off the upfront infrastructure costs of developing the land for things like putting in roads, sewers, sidewalks, drainage and public transportation stops.
The TIDD would allow UNM to keep gross receipts tax revenue it collects from the retailers and other leases as a way to pay off the costs of developing the property. According to businessdictionary.com, this process is called a "tax abatement."
This type of tax agreement is typically made with private entities to incentivize economic growth. This is the first time the city has considered a TIDD with a public entity like UNM. The rules are a little different since UNM, as a state entity, does not have to pay property taxes.
Kim Murphy, a development consultant for the Lobo Development Corporation, told city councilors that UNM wants to retain ownership of the land. The private businesses that set up shop will lease the spaces rather than purchase them.
Murphy made the case that the property has the potential to be regionally and economically significant because it is located next to I-25, there are 100,000 employees located within 10 miles of the location, more than 1.3 million people visit the area’s athletic venues each year and over 40,000 students attend CNM and UNM each semester.
The resolution’s sponsors said city residents who live near the area have been asking for a grocery store and additional entertainment and dining options, and sponsors are optimistic this new project will be in line with their requests.
In addition to appealing to the neighboring communities, Murphy made a point of saying students, staff and faculty will also be consulted about how the development can best meet their needs and interests.
"As we move forward, we would like to get input from the entire University community," Murphy said.
Development at UNM's south campus has been a long time coming. In 2015, the University had plans to build a Wendy’s restaurant, partner with Marble Brewery to put in a taproom and a stage for live music, restaurants and a coffee shop at the intersection of University Boulevard and Avenida Cesar Chavez. However, plans fell through after Marble Development became hesitant about the monetary figures and backed out of the partnership as reported in the Daily Lobo.
Throughout his tenure as a city councilor, Isaac Benton has been a vocal opponent of UNM’s previous attempts to build on south campus, including the Lobo Village development.
Now one of the TIDD resolution’s co-sponsors, Benton championed the newfound collaborative relationship between the city and UNM but asked UNM officials to be cognizant of two areas of potential discontent with the surrounding neighborhoods as they move forward with the planning:
1) The impact on traffic at the University and Gibson intersection
2) The preservation of trails, parks and open space within the development
Councilor Cynthia Borrego shared that Bruce Thompson, the vice president of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA), had a concern that if the taxes are abated AMAFCA would experience a reduction in tax revenue but still be expected to do the storm drain improvements.
With the City Council’s approval, UNM officials say they will now approach the county and state for additional support.
The Board of Regents are expected to vote on the finalized development plan at their May 12, 2020 meeting. If there are no delays, the plan would go before the City Council for final approval on June 1, 2020.
Lissa Knudsen is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lissaknudsen