By Michael Turnbell
Journal Staff Writer
Monday, February 28, 2000
The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway signed a purchase agreement Friday giving an Albuquerque group 90 days to come up with $2.5 million to buy the railroad’s old locomotive repair shops near Downtown.
The Urban Council, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to revitalizing Downtown, signed the agreement Wednesday and made a $100,000 down payment.
Urban Council president Joe Craig said he hopes to have the final agreement from the railroad in hand this week.
The group is working with the Wheels Museum Board of Directors to put a transportation museum and exposition center inside the historic buildings between Second Street and the railroad tracks.
Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., who helped secure a $300,000 federal grant for the project, is scheduled to hold a news conference today announcing the agreement. Bernalillo County received the $300,000 grant last year to help the museum complete a feasibility study, business plan and preliminary designs for the project.
Wilson said the grant was sent to the county “because Wheels was a new entity without a record of managing federal grants.”
County Manager Juan Vigil said the county should get the money in about 60 days. It will be up to the County Commission to appropriate it.
Wilson said the study should determine whether the Urban Council can redevelop the area and bring jobs to Barelas.
“What was important was getting a real plan for development while preserving the buildings. The site had been vacant almost 15 years and the idea of the local group seemed to be worth developing further,”
Wilson said. Wilson and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., intervened on the museum’s behalf in November and called the railroad company’s president after the Fort Worth-based railroad initially gave the Wheels backers short notice to come up with plans and financing.
“All we asked of the railroad was to give them a reasonable period of time to put together the financing. (The railroad) listened to some folks in the community and were willing to give them that time,” Wilson said.
“It’s still up to the Wheels Museum and the Urban Council to come through on the financing. But they’ve got a chance.”