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NADG receives committee nod

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Council will consider approving North American Development group to develop the Trinity Site at their Nov. 9 meeting

By Kirsten Laskey

North American Development Group will get the nod to be the developer recommended to the county for tackling the Trinity Revitalization Project, the advisory committee announced during a public listening session Monday night.
The committee is now formalizing its recommendation for County Administrator Tony Mortillaro, who is expected to endorse the pick for the Los Alamos County Council’s consideration during its regular meeting Nov. 9.
Stan Primak, a member of the advisory committee, urged residents to stay active and aware of this project. A rosy picture of the project may have been painted, he said, “but this is a work in progress … we have to remain vigilant.”
One way the community can stay knowledgeable is to attend the last public listening session on the project, which will be from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday at White Rock Town Hall. The first one was Monday at the Los Alamos Research Park.
The Monday night session kicked off with a review of the selection process.
Committee member Eugene Schmidt said the committee’s role was to advise the county on which direction to take the Trinity Site Revitalization Project.
From the Los Alamos Public School’s perspective, Schmidt, who is also the LAPS superintendant, said, the main focus of the decision-making process centered on ways to maximize school revenue for the future.
With residents of the county in mind, the project must also focus on the amenities and shopping experiences that work best for the community, he said. When Schmidt first moved here, he said he was surprised for a population of about 20,000, how limited the number was for local businesses. Furthermore, more people were talking about all the businesses that had left Los Alamos.
The committee seeks to bring in some new retail
opportunities and help out existing businesses as well, Schmidt said.
They worked with a consultant, Jones Lang LaSalle, to pare down the number of potential developers from a total universe of about 60 to eventually one.
Last week, the committee tentatively endorsed North American Development Group to the county council but said they still had a few unanswered questions.
The committee, Schmidt said, met with the developer and Smith’s officials in a meeting Monday, and believes the committee is now in a position to proceed with a full endorsement of North American Development Group.
Committee member Bill Enloe said the Trinity Site project has less than optimal timing with the economy forcing many large retailers to close their doors and developers under increasing financial pressure.  But, he said, the committee was fortunate to find a financially stable developer, which had an interested and financially stable anchor, The Kroger Company, the parent company of Smith’s.
Enloe added that the developer feels it won’t be easy, but it is possible, to attract other smaller retailers to the Trinity Site and possibly the Mari-Mac shopping center.
“They can do it and they are committed to it,” he said.
So, committee member Kristin Henderson said, what the community can expect to see is a Smith’s Marketplace, which would sell groceries and general merchandise, as the anchor store.
What exactly the general merchandise would be, Henderson said, depends on what goods Los Alamos residents would like to see.
She added the committee felt it was important to offer general merchandise and more of a “super store” concept in order to keep money on the Hill.
Enloe added the anchor would be one-of-a-kind. “This is a marquee store for them in New Mexico,” he said.
While Smith’s would move to the Trinity site, Henderson said the Mari-Mac shopping center would not be vacant. The owners, she said, would either update the shopping center or tear it down for housing, a convention center or some other alternative.  The Smith’s officials indicated the store in White Rock would likely remain in operation and Smith’s executives expect to see some leakage to the new store in the first few months, Henderson said.
Whatever the plan is that emerges, committee member Kevin Holsapple said, only the developer is currently being recommended, not a specific project.
If the council approves the developer, then more specifics can be explored, he said.
The only certainty at this point, however, is that Smith’s Marketplace would be the anchor. The overall project would be done in concert with the downtown revitalization plans and the Canyon Rim Trail would be incorporated, he said.
Mike Hoog, who attended the meeting, asked if a 502 Corridor Study would be included in the Trinity Site project to make the area safe and friendly to cars, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Hoog also wondered if there were any concerns for the Mari-Mac shopping center being abandoned.