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Railyard near Barelas loses media shop

By Mike Tumolillo

February 3, 2006

It could be take two for a digital media production facility planned for construction on the site of the old Santa Fe Railway yards.

The facility will be built somewhere else, maybe the Mesa del Sol development in southern Albuquerque, said Ed Casebier, president of Forth Worth’s Renaissance Development Co. Inc., the managing member of a local company that owns the 27-acre railyard site.

“We’re going through some replanning of how we will use the property or if we will retain it,” he said. “Right now, we’re probably leaning toward returning it to industrial use. We may just sell it.”

Nick Smerigan, director of acquisitions for Pacifica Ventures, a firm involved in the digital media facility project, said a confidentiality agreement barred him from commenting on the facility’s fate.

However, he said the railyard is “not abandoned.”

At one point, the production facility was to include sound stages, digital insert stages, a construction mill, a food service area and space for child care. It was to employ between 300 and 500 people. Projects it could tackle included TV shows, films, medical imaging technologies and virtual reality.

Casebier said plans for the railyard site would be reviewed over the next 30 days. On the list of possibilities is a mixed-use development of stores, residences and office space. Industrial and commercial development is also possible.

Turning the site into a conference center – an abandoned plan that might be revived – appeals to Cathy Garcia, president of the association for the nearby Barelas neighborhood.

“A quick flashy solution, i.e., the studios, was really not the trick,” she said. “We need to have a deeper look at things. There needs to be some realistic possibilities that have depth.”

But any development needs to respect the railyard’s history, she said.

“There are so many people here – you talk about the railyards and . . . it’s almost like a religion to them,” she said. “They say, `The whistle would blow in the morning to start work; we knew what time it was. They blew the whistle at noon; we knew it was lunchtime. They blew the whistle at night, and we knew when our family workers were going to come home.’ “

“You hear that time and time again,” she said. “It’s almost like this neighborhood was built around the railway project.”

Even if the studio goes to Mesa del Sol, it would still be a gain for the city, said Fred Mondragón, director of the city’s office of economic development.

“We really wanted them to come Downtown, but we’re pleased they’re coming to Albuquerque and they’re still going to be within the city limits of Albuquerque,” he said. “The mayor’s excited we’re getting film studios.”

Other partners in the digital media facility project could not be reached or were unable to comment on the facility’s next step.

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.