City invites artists to document Rail Yards before renewal

By Steve Knight / Journal Staff Writer
Published: Friday, September 21st, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — City officials are giving more than 50 local artists access to the Albuquerque Rail Yards this weekend with their supplies and equipment to document the historic site before redevelopment begins.
During a Friday news conference, Mayor Tim Keller spoke of the “Artists Days” project, an effort to preserve and archive the current state of the property, which began Friday and continues today. He also outlined plans on proposed improvements to the site that was once a major maintenance facility for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.
The city is taking over efforts to remediate and revitalize the Rail Yards after breaking ties with Samitaur Constructs, a California-based contractor hired in 2012 to redevelop the property.
The city’s next steps include increasing security with 24-hour protection, cleaning the site and improving access, repairing roofs and installing utilities and preparing for demolition of small buildings not historically significant.
Planning Department Director David Campbell used the saying, “If you don’t know where you’ve been, you can’t know where you’re going” in both English and Spanish to explain the purpose of Artists Days.
“This is the city’s opportunity to take the ‘before’ pictures,” Campbell said. “Someday very soon, we hope, we will be able to celebrate the ‘after’ pictures – the ones that tell us how this place has been transformed. We are so fortunate to have not only the Rail Yards, but to have artists and photographers to document this.”
Keller earlier in the week said the city would stick to a previously approved “master vision” for the 27.3 acre property and break that plan into phases.
The first priority after extensive environmental remediation will be to “activate” the building adjacent to the already-updated blacksmith shop, which is home to the weekly market.
A second updated building will mean additional event space and market expansion.
Keller said he plans to ask for help from the City Council, the Legislature and the governor. He estimated remediation would cost around $8 million and rehabbing the second building would be another “couple of million dollars.”
He said the city is also switching management of the facility over to SMG, the company contracted to run the Albuquerque Convention Center, in hopes of increasing its use.
The rail yards are just south of Downtown, between the Barelas and South Broadway neighborhoods. The city bought the site in 2007 for about $8.5 million, with a commitment that redevelopment would include some mixed-income housing and a permanent place for the Wheels Museum. The site consists of 18 surviving buildings erected between 1915 and 1925.