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.