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Experts to Review Options for Old Rail Yards

By Sean Olson – Journal Staff Writer
February 26, 2008

Practicality is the key to redeveloping the Barelas rail yards, according to a panel of national experts.

While many are spending their time imagining what could be for the century-old rail yards near Iron and Second, an Urban Land Institute panel focused on what couldn’t be done in a report released Friday.

The restraints for the 27-acre parcel— poor road access and large connected buildings— make it a poor choice for some development options, panelists said in a presentation Friday.

Larger grocery stores and retail outlets would not have the parking or access needed to establish themselves inside the area, panelists said.

Office space was also out of the question. No boutiques either. “(The panel) didn’t pull any punches,” city councilor Isaac Benton said Friday.

He said the presentation illustrated the need for a rational thought process among the city, community and developers to make the rail yards work— and still provide a service to the public.

The panel did have some suggestions.

Most notably a park surrounded by the historic rail yard buildings— one of which would become at least 30 units of affordable housing.

Another would become a new space for the local Wheels Museum, a transportation museum that helped secure the historic site.

An anchor tenant, such as a film or art studio, would be needed early on to drive the development, panelists said.

Landscaped paths connecting the National Hispanic Cultural Center on 4th and Avenida César Chávez and downtown— by way of the rail yards— was another recommendation.

The panel stressed that no matter what development options the city chose, it should make sure to hire a master developer for the area and remain flexible throughout the process.

The council will put out a request for proposals to find an experienced developer soon, Benton said.

The city bought the rail yards for $8.5 million in November.

They have been used recently by film studios for feature films and commercials.


Railyard Worker Commemorative Plaques. Honor a loved one who worked on the railroad, honor a WHEELS volunteer or honor the WHEELS Museum. WHEELS is now selling plaques with name plates for $100.00 per name.  Keep the memory of these people alive in perpetuity with a gorgeous wooden plaque with brass name plate. Thank those who made our city and state successful, built the railroad, continue to work to preserve our history and create our future. The plaques will be displayed in the Community Room at WHEELS.

Contact Paulette Miller Weir who is graciously supporting the project and has volunteered to orchestrate this work. Her phone number is (505) 227-3270.  Please send checks for $100.00 per name and a few other words such as dates of birth or death or job held to WHEELS Museum, PO Box 95438 Albuquerque, NM 97199 or contact Ms. Miller Weir for any questions.  We can also accept credit cars payment by calling WHEELS-6269.

June 24, 10 - Noon, “LEGO Club Meeting”. See how LEGOS become vehicles, houses, bridges, animals and view amazing Lego displays. Learn how to build with Legos and meet Lego Masters. Space is limited.  Children are welcome, but must be accompanied by an adult. Call Leba at (505) 243-6269  or email to Leba4@aol.com.. Admission is free, donations are encouraged.

July 1, 1-2 pm, "Strings and Sings" Robin Howard in concert. “Strings and Sings” is a solo project of singer/songwriter Robin Howard. Robin covers all popular styles of music including Country, Classic Rock, Folk, Blues, and even original tunes. His music has earned him both praise and support from local musicians in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. RSVP:505-243-6269 or email to Leba4@aol.com. Fee: $ 10.00

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.