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As work progresses on the new municipal building, the county is also moving closer to reaching agreement with a group of local businesses interested in developing commercial property on the municipal complex site.
Known as 1010 Central, the prime location is on a parcel of land nestled between the municipal building and the Bradbury Science Museum.
“The history of the 1010 project is very much related to the history of the municipal building project,” said outgoing Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation Executive Director Kevin Holsapple. LACDC is a member of the group negotiating with the county to purchase the 1010 Central property and will manage the development if the deal is finalized.
When the old municipal building had to be demolished due to a lack of structural integrity, the LACDC was among those who urged the county to build a new municipal center in the commercial district.
“The idea was that placing that activity in the middle of town would help be a catalyst for other activity to take shape around it that would help fill in, improve and densify that part of town, which is a big part of the downtown plan,” Holsapple said.
After a site was chosen, the LACDC advocated for a consolidated building design that would leave a portion of the site free for commercial development. LACDC’s MainStreet worked with New Mexico MainStreet to provide concepts illustrating what impact commercial property could have at that location.
After the county approved a municipal complex site plan that included commercial development, the group spearheaded by the LACDC made an unsolicited proposal to acquire the land, which Holsapple said “didn’t really get any traction.” But when the county issued a Request for Proposals in November of 2011, the coalition submitted a proposal that was selected as the preferred option early this year. Negotiations have been in progress ever since.
“LACDC responded as part of a group of property owners who had an interest in the vision we had and the goals we had, which was filling in a piece of street front in the downtown where there never has been a street front before with commercial space,” Holsapple said.
“There’s been a long term concern expressed that there is not well placed retail space available in the town, there’s not enough quality retail space that’s in a good location for visibility of the business. And this project definitely would provide that type of space.”
County Administrator Harry Burgess was reluctant to talk about the ongoing negotiations, but Holsapple said, “We’re pretty much completed with our negotiations with the county. We’re in the final stages right now of securing the financing needed to move ahead with that project, and then we will look to close on the land purchase process with the county.”
“Over the last many months we’ve stuck with pretty much what our proposal is, other than we’ve kind of reached the tentative agreement that we would pay a lot more for the property than we originally offered. That was one thing that we were pressed on,” Holsapple said.
Holsapple said a key element of the proposal is that small business owners will purchase commercial property within the development rather than leasing space.
“There are a lot of small business owners with locally owned businesses within the community that have expressed a desire to own their own space,” Holsapple said. “They’re interested in the idea of making an investment in the community that allows them at the end of the day to own something of value in the form of commercial property that comes from their efforts.”
The small business owners behind the proposal are forming a limited liability corporation to secure financing and build the development. Enough businesses have committed to fill two thirds of the 32,000-square-foot project. LACDC is currently working to secure commitments on the remaining space.
“We want to hear from any businesses who are interested in it and in a position to own their own high quality space in a new building on a prime location on our main pedestrian street in town,” Holsapple said. “The more commitments we have lined up in advance, the better. Although it is clear to me that with commitment at 67 percent, we’re in a pretty solid position to move ahead with the financing, we’d like to get it even more solid.”
Businesses that commit now will have better terms than those that sign on after the financing is finalized, according to Holsapple.
The LACDC is working to match prospective property owners with available space: street front for businesses that will attract foot traffic to the area and upstairs space for offices and commercial enterprises that do not require street front visibility.
Space commitments to date include a restaurant, a retail service business, a fitness business, accountants and physicians. The LACDC hopes to fill the remaining space with enterprises that complement those.
“We want to be sure that people are very clear that we have a couple of steps to go with respect to the financing and things with the county,” Holsapple said. “But on the other hand, we feel like we’ve reached terms that can be workable with the county and the signals we’re getting in terms of the financing are that it’s a financeable project.”