The next step forward

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An update from the Trinity Site Committee

The long awaited Trinity Site Redevelopment moved closer to reality with the announcement that North American Development Group (NADG) would be the recommended developer for the 15-acre site that was previously  home to the Los Alamos Public Schools district office and a number of county buildings.
For many years, it has been the dream of community members to turn the site into a commercial and retail zone. More and more, it looks like that is going to happen.
The pace toward redevelopment picked up quickly when the county council formed the Trinity Site Redevelopment Project Advisory Committee (TSRPAC) this past spring.   
Contributing to the increased pace was the completion of the agreement between the county and schools in January 2010. The county and schools moved their operations off the Trinity Site enabling demolition of the site.
For the first time, there was finally a cleared site that could be conveyed to a developer.  TSRPAC was charged with reviewing proposals submitted by interested developers from throughout the nation and advancing the name of a developer to the county administrator.
Months of discussions and study followed culminating late October when the list of potential developers was narrowed to nine, then four, then two and finally one.  NADG, which has more than 30 years of successful ground-up shopping center development experience, was unanimously selected by the committee to deliver a functional and sustainable shopping center.
The committee will announce NADG as their recommended choice to County Administrator Tony Mortillaro at Tuesday’s county council meeting.
NADG’s vision for the Trinity Site includes a first class flagship grocery store that combines the unique topographical and visual characteristics of the Los Alamos surroundings.
Discussions with NADG suggest they seek to establish a mix of local, regional and national operators that provide name recognition as well as help to promote and preserve local business.
These factors were considered important because the county’s Request for Proposals  (RFP) outlined 11 criteria for TSRPAC to consider.
Examples of the 11 criterion included:
•The capacity and capability of the development team to execute the proposed development;
• The financial stability of the developer including the capability to raise sufficient equity to finance the project;
• The commitment to tenants, compatibility of the development with Los Alamos’ Comprehensive Plan, the Downtown Plan and Design Guidelines; and
• Financial return to Los Alamos County.
Decisions of this importance called for serious debate. The committee recognized this throughout its research of the developers’ proposals, briefings with county administrators, conversations with the community and deliberations with committee members.
In the process, the committee not only brought specific expertise and historic perspective to the deliberations; it also considered the opinions of Los Alamos and White Rock stakeholders in the decision-making process.  
Another important interest on the part of the committee’s selection process was the opportunity to maximize revenue to the school district and county.  Because the property at Trinity Site is jointly owned by the school district and the county, lease revenues generated by stores renting building space on the Trinity Site will be distributed back to the school district (52 percent) and county (48 percent) split.   
To ensure that due diligence was applied to the decision-making process, the committee asked NADG to respond to specific questions about the development, including NADG plans to construct a Smith’s Marketplace 110,000 square foot anchor grocery and general merchandise store at the Trinity Site.  
Follow up questions about the future of the Mari-Mac Center and the White Rock Smith’s grocery store were also asked.
In response, representatives of Smith’s stated they have a multi-million dollar investment in their ownership of Mari-Mac Center and are not interested in having an empty building.  They also have a variety of commitments to the other tenants of Mari-Mac that are important for them to meet.
The Smith’s representative also stated the company valued the White Rock Smith’s and had no intention of changing the operation of that store.  They recognized that the convenience to White Rock residents of shopping there is important and stated that the store is successful.  Smith’s told the committee that they lease the White Rock building.
NADG went on to state that the existence of an 110,000 square foot grocery/ merchandise store would be a major asset in recruiting other retailers to the Trinity Site.
In their proposal, NADG explained that they also intended to build an additional 50,000 square feet of commercial space.
Despite Los Alamos’ small population base, NADG felt that retailers might be willing to adjust their criteria for population base and store size and relocate to Los Alamos because of Smith’s commitment to build a marketplace.
An anchor of this size, NADG stated, would attract  national attention.
In addition, NADG expressed an interest in hosting conversational forums with the community to gain insight into the kinds of retail, entertainment, restaurants and amenities that the community might be interested in as well as to receive input about architectural and design considerations.
In closing, there is still work to be done. The TSRPAC recommendation to the county administration becomes the next step forward in the redevelopment of the Trinity Site. On Tuesday, TSRPAC will submit a formal recommendation to the county administrator. As a committee, we ask the county administrator to advance this recommendation to the county council.

Editor’s note: TSRPAC members include Andrea Cunningham, Bill Enloe, Denny Erickson, Diana Martinez, Eugene Schmidt, George Chandler, Keven Todd, Kevin Holsapple, Kristin Henderson, Lou Santoro, Lynn Ovaska, Pat Walls, Rick Bohn, Stan Primak and Steven Lynne. In addition, project manager Jones Lang Lasalle assisted Los Alamos County and TSRPAC throughout the process.