This story was originally published by Source New Mexico
City officials in Albuquerque want to purchase the Walmart property set to close on March 10 near San Mateo and Central.
It’s unclear how much it will cost for the city to acquire the property, which is still owned by Walmart.
The company has yet to offer to sell it, according to City Councilor Pat Davis, who said he is working with Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s office to design plans to purchase the property.
Davis said that the city could reallocate money to fund a purchase, but it is seeking other funding opportunities through the state legislature as well.
In a press release, the City wrote, state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-Albuquerque) and state Rep. Janelle Anyanonu (D-Albuquerque) are working to secure capital outlay appropriations for this project.
City officials hoped that capital outlay appropriations would be secured via House Bill 505, otherwise known as Capital Outlay Projects.
The current version of the bill appropriates more than $40 million dollars for Bernalillo County, specifically projects in Albuquerque. At this time, the bill does not have money for projects that could lead the city to purchase the Walmart property.
HB 505 is set to be heard in the House Taxation and Revenue Committee on March 10. It seems unlikely that any funding from this bill will go to pay for this project.
Albuquerque officials said another proposal, Senate Bill 251, otherwise known as the Metro Development Act Changes, could offer additional funding sources for redevelopment projects on the site.
The bill unanimously passed the Senate on March 6 and is waiting to be introduced into the House. It was amended to include a provision that would require the state Finance Authority to approve any transactions by the city.
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SB 251 would create additional methods to fund redevelopment projects across the state, including the city’s Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency.
Redevelopment projects can be done in designated redevelopment areas, according to Terry Brunner, the Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency Director. The Walmart property resides in the International District, which is designated as the Near Heights area.
A redevelopment project could occur at the site if the city purchases the property from the corporation, according to Brunner.
“We’ll take a portion of the city that’s blighted or underdeveloped, and declare it a Metropolitan Redevelopment area, which gives us the ability to use our special incentives and work to try to get more commercial activity in that area,” Brunner said.
Ideally, Julie Bettencourt, a community organizer in Albuquerque, said that if the city obtains that property they would want to see something that is affordable.
Also something that is accessible in other ways. Bettencourt referenced Thrift-A-Lot, a thrift store that recently closed, as an example.
“They had a lot of stuff in the back that they would give out to unsheltered folks who came in who needed it. And they worked with people on, like, their prices. Stuff like that needs to exist to help people out,” Bettencourt said.
If a project is undertaken by the city it is not expected to be completed quickly, according to state Sen. Carrie Hamblen (D-Albuquerque), an SB 251 sponsor.
She said this is in order to allow time for the project to collect input from the community and local businesses.
“This is not something that happens overnight. This is something that is for best practices, is something that is done over a long period of time,” Hamblen said.
The Albuquerque Development Commission has a Citizen Advisory Board that is intended to play a role in deciding how the projects unfold, Brunner said.
Enrique Cardiel, a community organizer in the International District, said the city needs to involve the neighborhood’s input in the process.
“Address the needs of the working class community that lives around and uses that Walmart. If it becomes an upscale development that really doesn’t replace what is about to be lost,” Cardiel said.
If a housing redevelopment project is done at that location, Bettencourt said they hope it is more in tune with community needs and given more attention than other housing programs the city has attempted before.
“They are pumping so much money into resources, but these rapid rehousing and renters assistance programs just aren’t getting the proper attention,” Bettencourt said.
SB 251 will allow redevelopment projects the city wants to fund through local, state and county taxes, as opposed to only being able to utilize money from the city’s property taxes, according to Brunner.
The money would not cause an increase to residents’ taxes, according to Hamblen, but rather diverts money that would otherwise go to the state.
The bill is intended to give the communities more authority in how the funds are used, she said.
The additional funds will allow the city to be able to undertake more projects at once, according to Brunner.
If a housing, retail or redevelopment project starts, it would include community input from the start, she said.
A redevelopment project does have options to create affordable housing on the site, Hamblen said.
Past investment projects from the Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency included utilizing a tax abatement for the development of the Broadstone Nob Hill Apartments and a $1.2 million redevelopment at the Rail Yard, according to the agencies 2022 annual report.
“The key thing is we could easily slide into this whole different direction of putting in high-end stuff there. Hopefully we avoid that,” Cardiel said.
Bettencourt and Cardiel both want the city to prioritize the needs of the International District community members through affordability and encourage more grocery stores, pharmacies and banking options.
Only if Walmart sells the property and the city can make the purchase, of course.
“People need things. And we need to make sure that we have the resources and accessibility and even if the city ends up buying that space it’s very difficult to trust them to do the right thing with it,” Bettencourt said. “Because their attempts to use stuff don’t always go as planned.”
Maddie Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @maddogpukite
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