Wheels Museum Gets $545,000

By Harry Moskos
Of the Journal

Sunday, April 20, 2003
The Wheels Museum received a boost this month when Gov. Bill Richardson signed measures providing $545,000 for planning and exhibit acquisition.
The museum is proposed for a Downtown tract that once housed the Santa Fe Railway repair shops along Second Street SW. The 27-acre parcel includes 350,000 square feet of space in several buildings once used to service Santa Fe’s steam engines.
The idea originated in 1998 with Leba Freed, whose family operated the Freed Co. imports store on Central Avenue for 80 years.
The Urban Council of Albuquerque Inc., a nonprofit organization, purchased the tract from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad for $2.5 million in 2000.
“The redeveopment plans would have the Wheels Museum as a component in the development of that site,” notes Alan Vincioni of Berger Briggs and vice president of the Urban Council.
“As with any big project, everything is not as simple as it should be,” says Freed, the Wheels Museum president. She noted that difficulty in raising funds has pushed back the museum’s original opening date by two years, to 2007.
And there have been some conflicts with the Urban Council, which may be headed for mediation.
Joe Craig is vice president of Wheels and Alan Clark, who worked 30 years for the city’s library system, is executive director.
Clark says the goal of Wheels is not just a museum but a source of economic development highlighting “our history and culture.”
There are many details yet to be worked out. One, for example, is whether an existing building will house the museum or a new structure. A new structure would be in the shape and design of the old Santa Fe Railway roundhouse, which was demolished in the 1970s.
Clark points out that the railroad and Route 66 changed New Mexico.
“The history of the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway is the development of the West,” he notes. “In the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, one-fourth of the people here worked on the railroad in one aspect or other.”
Plans call for about 60 percent of the museum’s space to be allocated for permanent exhibits, with the remaining space available for touring exhibits.