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McCune takes over HDIC, new executives take developer’s reins

By Kathi Schroeder – New Mexico Business Weekly
Feb. 19, 2006

In a deal likely to have a major impact on downtown Albuquerque, the McCune Charitable Foundation has taken full control of the city center’s leading private developer, the Historic District Improvement Co..

In doing so, it effectively took the day-to-day control of HDIC away from two of its leaders, Christopher Leinberger and Pat Bryan. Leinberger had been HDIC’s managing partner and Bryan it’s general counsel and COO. Both stepped down the week of Feb. 6.

McCune, HDIC’s founder, this month finalized a buyout of the equity interest of Arcadia at Albuquerque, an entity in which Leinberger and Bryan were partners, for an undisclosed amount. The Santa Fe-based nonprofit foundation is HDIC’s major shareholder, providing the development company’s financial support since its inception in 2000.

Bryan, a former city of Albuquerque attorney and a former president of the Downtown Action Team (DAT), has indicated he will be pursuing Downtown development projects on his own. DAT is a partner in HDIC. Bryan was vacationing and could not be reached for comment.

Leinberger, who also stepped down as chair of HDIC’s board last summer, says he is currently working with the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., on redevelopment projects in downtown Detroit and southern Louisiana.

Named the week of Feb. 6 as HDIC’s co-general managers were former Albuquerque attorney Chuck Wellborn, and commercial real estate broker Russel Hiller, who has served as executive director of the Sandia Foundation. Wellborn, a long time partner of the Modrall Sperling law firm, was the founding president of the University of New Mexico’s Science & Technology Corp.

At McCune’s behest, Hiller and Wellborn, who has worked for HDIC since leaving UNM in 2000, joined HDIC’s board of directors when it was formed last year. McCune’s Executive Director Owen Lopez, its Office and Grants Administrator Wendy Lewis, and McCune’s Program Director Norty Kalishman, M.D., also serve on the board.

Leinberger had involved himself in numerous Downtown projects, from the failed 10,000-seat arena to the railyard/exposition center/Wheels Museum effort that has been stalled in a tangle of competing interests and a lawsuit. Those activities and his consulting work on development projects all over the country reportedly took time away from his role at HDIC. But several sources who didn’t want to be named noted that things truly started to sour with McCune for Leinberger and Bryan when the American Warehouse building HDIC owned was placed in foreclosure in 2003 after a legal tangle over the building’s management. The building, in the 600 block of Central SW, was the site of Banana Joe’s nightclub, HDIC’s first Downtown development. McCune reportedly lost a more than $1.2 million investment in the building as a result.

Together, Leinberger and Bryan were major players on the Downtown development scene for the past half decade. With the two at the helm, HDIC developed the Downtown theater block at First and Central Avenue (HDIC is also this newspaper’s landlord) and the Gold Avenue Lofts in the 100 block of Gold SW. HDIC also owns the Crossroads building at Fourth and Central Avenue, where the Maloney’s restaurant and Theobroma Chocolatier operate.

In the 50 years prior to the adoption of the 10-year, Downtown revitalization master plan “2010” in 2000, the city made 31 unsuccessful attempts to develop a program that would turn Albuquerque’s central business district into a thriving and more economically viable business district.

HDIC became instrumental in helping the city develop it’s current plan for Downtown after Bryan, who was involved with DAT, brought Leinberger to the city as a consultant in 1998 because of Leinberger’s experience consulting for similar urban redevelopment efforts across the nation.

Leinberger told city leaders the reason none of the Downtown plans had worked was because there was little or no private sector involvement.

A statement from HDIC this week noted that Leinberger and Bryan had “left an important legacy,” adding that the two were “instrumental in the development of the [2010 plan], the creation of HDIC and the successful bid to redevelop the Alvarado Redevelopment District where the Century Theatre Block is located.”

But without McCune, and its money, there would be no HDIC.

Downtown commercial broker Karen Cook, principle of green-build/consulting firm EECOM, who was involved in a former partnership with HDIC, called the private, nonprofit McCune Charitable Foundation a “hero” for what it has accomplished Downtown. “They’ve had to deal with a lot of issues over the years,” she noted, “and Albuquerque should be proud of their contributions and their willingness to stick it out.”

HDIC retains the rights to develop other properties under its development agreement with the city, including the Downtown transportation complex along First Street that will house the Greyhound bus terminal and a one block site bordered by Silver, Lead, Second and Third streets that is anticipated to be a mix of retail and residential projects. Wellborn says plans are in the works for those sites and others.

Meanwhile, HDIC’s 41-unit Gold Avenue Lofts are being marketed in-house by Millie Arnold and Kristi Dutcher, while the street-level retail sites are represented by Brenda Canada, CB Richard Ellis. Plans call for three models, an office, a traditional residential unit and a luxury unit to be built out by May. Seven units have been sold to date. Enterprise Builders is doing the build-outs of Mullen-Heller Architect Doug Heller’s designs.

Events

New Lego exhibit at the Wheels Museum. View The New Mexico Lego Users Group has
partnered with WHEELS to have a beautiful Lego Train layout for children of all ages to enjoy. The exhibit will vary from season to season and we invite you to come see this new Lego train exhibit.

Do you have a few hours each month to help the Wheels Museum? Volunteers are needed so the Museum can be open more; run the model railroad trains, also help needed with events, marketing, fund raising. Call Leba Freed at (505) 243-6269.

Febuary 16, 11 am. Bob Bovee Long Steel Rails concert. This program for all ages presents songs and stories about the famous trains, rail workers, hobos, train wrecks and train robbers. Call or email Leba Freed for reservations at (505) 243-6269 or leba4@aol.com.

March 17, Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at WHEELS. Movie, tours, train ride and food celebration.

April 1, 1 pm. Doug Figgs and Badger. Back by popular demand. By reservations only (505) 243- 6269. Doug’s show was sold out last year, so call early! Donation: $10.00.

April 8, 11 am. “Historic Albuquerque” Ronn Perea will present old Albuquerque anecdotes including delightful stories about our beloved Alvarado Hotel and the politicians, actors and entertainers who stayed there. This is a free event but, of course, donations are always appreciated.

April 22, Wheels Museum Day trip to Rancho De Chimayo Restaurante, El Santuario de Chimayo and the Santa Fe Plaza. Call Leba or Janet at (505) 243-6269 for more information. The museum is a 501C3 non-profit community organization whose mission is to create a transportation museum at the downtown Albuquerque Steam Locomotive Repair Shops.

May 19-May 23, Train trip to the Grand Canyon. Only a few spaces left.Scheduled through Amtrak Vacations, call Leba or Janet at (505) 243-6269 for reservations and more information.