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Negotiations to buy rail yards pick up steam


By Peter Rice
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Albuquerque Tribune

Advocates for redeveloping the 27-acre Santa Fe rail yards property on the east side of Barelas say the efforts look – once again – like they might be back on track.

Armed with a fresh appropriation of $3.3 million from the city and the state, the Wheels Museum and unnamed partners are negotiating to buy the property from other partners led by Ed Casebier, of the Fort Worth, Texas, firm Renaissance Development Co.

“We’re completely optimistic that we can do a magnificent project for New Mexico,” said Leba Freed, the president of the Wheels Museum.

Freed isn’t saying much about the negotiations – just that they’ve been happening for a few weeks.

Alan Clark, the museum’s executive director, said the parties haven’t settled on a purchase price yet.

“I think they’re pretty close to making a deal,” said City Councilor Isaac Benton, who helped arrange the latest round of city funding and lobbied for the state money. “There’s just been a lot of perseverance.”

The prospects have been considerably dimmer in the past. Failed, nearly finalized deals to buy the property stretch back to at least 2000. Negotiations have broken down. One owner, the Urban Council of Albuquerque, defaulted on its loan and became the target of $1 million lawsuit by a separate creditor.

Attempts to reach a representative of the council were unsuccessful. The organization’s phone has been disconnected.

Over the years, the questions of what to do with the rail yard property – and the historic repair shop buildings that sit on it – have been in the headlines. Ideas have included creating a series of Hollywood-ready sound stages, an events center, a boutique hotel – even a small wind farm.

But assuming the current negotiations are successful, Benton said a thorough master planning process complete with an independent economic analysis would set out a more concrete plan.

About the only idea that has stayed on the table all along is creating a permanent home for the Wheels Museum, which is now based in a small office. The proposed museum would tell the history of wheeled transportation.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood is looking forward to some revitalization.

“We definitely want the development,” said John Perrine, the acting chairman of the Barelas Neighborhood Association. “The attitude here is positive.”

Perrine did add, however, that something should be done to ensure that the neighborhood’s current residents aren’t gentrified out of their homes due to rising property values the development might create.

From the Roaring Õ20s through the end of World War II, the yard served as a maintenance center for steam locomotives. It slid into decline toward the end of the Korean War, when railways began converting from steam to less labor-intensive diesel engines.

At one point, Clark said, 25 percent of the people who got a paycheck in Albuquerque worked in the yards.

Events

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.

Saturday, September 30 and Sunday October 1, 2023. One of the nation’s largest operating steam locomotives, former Santa Fe 2926, will be on the move and park next to the Albuquerque Rail Yards on Saturday, September 30 through Sunday, October 1. WHEELS will have a booth at the site. Please come and visit us. For more information go to: www.2926.us

Saturday, October 21 2-4 pm. “The Great Wheels Museum Train Robbery!” Dr. Ronald Lah of the Wheels Museum with a group of local history reenactors will present the program. It will include:
Screening with discussion of the 1903 film, “The Great Train Robbery,” and the “Lawmen Train Cars” that were developed for rapid deployment after a robbery.

Discussion of the historic Socorro and San Marcia, New Mexico train robberies, and the accuracy of train robbery depictions in movies like “Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid.”

Reenactment of an Old West train robbery staged in and around the Wheels Museum’s train coach car.

Donors to the Wheels Museum Fundraiser are encouraged to take a seat in the train coach and present your donation when the "Train Robbers" go through the car. Visitors are encouraged to wear some period style Old West apparel like bowler and feathered hats and bonnets, pin-stipes, vests, and boots.

Only non-functional firearm props will be used in the re-enactment. Admission is Free: Donations gratefully accepted. Phone: (505) 243-6269 to RSVP.

Saturday, October 28, 2-4 pm. Headset Dance Party. Dance wearing headsets to a great variety of musical choices. Admission Free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

Saturday, November 4, 11 am. “A History of Albuquerque Comedy or How I Got My Kicks on
Route 66.”
Ronn Perea. Ron's presentation will give you a unique insight into a part of Albuquerque
Culture and we promise you that you will laugh out loud throughout his talk. Admission is Free: Donations gratefully accepted. Phone: (505) 243-6269 to RSVP.

Saturday, November 4, 2 pm. "Albuquerque History Challenge: Education and Fun" Roland Pentilla is an Albuquerque historian who frequently conducts downtown walking tours on behalf of the
Albuquerque Historical Society and Historic Albuquerque, Inc. Come to experience our own “Jeopardy” version of Albuquerque history complete with raffle prizes for the correct answers. Admission is Free: Donations gratefully accepted. Phone: (505) 243-6269 to RSVP.

Saturday, November 25, 10 am. “Walter steps up to the plate”. Author Sue Houser discusses her book about twelve-year-old Walter wants to spend the summer of 1927 watching his beloved Chicago Cubs play baseball. Instead,Walter must leave everything he knows and loves to accompany his mother to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a place he has never been to live with relatives he has never met. Admission is Free: Donations gratefully accepted. Phone: (505) 243-6269 to RSVP.

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.