Millions of dollars in cleanup needed before Rail Yards construction begins

KRQE News 13-Feb 26, 2018
Rebecca Atkins ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE)
Once full of life, the sprawling 27 acre Rail Yards site looks abandoned. Although it’s been featured in blockbuster films, like “The Avengers,” not much happens there other than the Rail Yards Market.
“People feel like it’s not moving fast enough,” said City Councilor Isaac Benton.
Benton was instrumental in the city’s $8.5 million purchase of the Rail Yards a decade ago. The master plans include shopping, restaurants, housing and an amphitheater. Benton said it’s time the plans come to life.
“There’s a general sense of disappointment,” said Benton.
The LA-based developer Samitaur Constructs has been criticized in the past for its lack of progress. The previous mayor put the developer on notice last year after concerns over delays on the project. They are now required to provide quarterly updates.
Now, comes a huge obstacle in the way. At the last Albuquerque Development Commission meeting, Samitaur revealed the cost for the environmental cleanup at the site.
“The first phase being just under $2 million, and you’re looking at the second phase being $3 million,” said a representative for the developer.
In an audio recording of the meeting, Samitaur said it would cost about $5 million to get rid of asbestos on the windows, lead paint residue, and underground vapors.
“Identifying what the environment is, they’ve checked a box or something, but we’re nowhere near starting, much less coming to a hard figure,” said Benton.
The new administration said it’s a project the city won’t give up on.
“The mayor is very, very committed to making the Rail Yards a viable area for the city,” said Lawrence Rael, COO for the Mayor’s office.
However, he said they’re at a crossroads.
“The issue really is, we either need to begin to have this developer move forward or begin to take a different course with the project,” said Rael.
The city is not responsible for footing the bill, but it could help the developer pursue grants and provide its own funding as well.