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Sites for municipal building narrowed down

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Committee analyzes final two sites

By Carol A. Clark

Early this year, county council appointed a citizens’ site selection steering committee to search out and recommend the best possible location on which to build the new Municipal Building. 

This committee considered 25 possible sites during its first several meetings in June and July, including both county owned properties on the Hill and in White Rock, as well as 12 privately-owned sites where owners indicated an interest in selling their property to the county. 

The selection process is in its final stages, with the committee having narrowed the field down to two sites in its effort to achieve comprehensive plan goals of creating a lively and active downtown, encouraging new commercial investment and removing existing downtown eyesores.

Site 6 encompasses the county- owned   Los Alamos Apartments  site, while the privately owned Site 13 covers 1247 Central Ave. and 1360 and 1372 Trinity Dr., across from the Los Alamos Apartments site. 

At the beginning of Thursday’s meeting in the Community Building, the committee gave the bum’s rush to businesswoman Denise Lane and Developer Brent DePonte, of DePonte Investments in Albuquerque.

The pair attempted to present the attributes of a site on Trinity Drive near 15th Street for consideration.

Committee member Gary Ahlers interrupted their presentation saying the committee had already selected its final two sites and theirs wasn’t one of them.

Lane explained that they believe their site to be the best choice and they planned to present their project to county officials but wanted to give the committee the courtesy of viewing their plan first.

The committee asked them to stop their presentation so they packed up and left.

Representatives from county contracted FBT Architects then began their presentation, which allowed the committee to review site design schemes showing how the municipal building could fit on either site.

FTB architects Chris Bard, Ted Grumblatt and Art Tatum presented nine schemes in all and the committee eventually voted to eliminate three.

They also asked the architects to return next week with a modified scheme.

Committee Chair Stan Primak asked the architects to share any negative features they’ve identified at either site.

“Being on Central is a positive,” Grumblatt said of Site 6. “The major downfall is whether we can do something with all the utility easements ... there’s direct impact to the master plan and whether you can place parking there. It’s putting a 48,000 square-foot Municipal Building on Central and there’s no getting around putting a sea of asphalt there.”

Site 13 was more difficult to develop because of its L-shape and other aspects, said the architects. Several of the schemes met the intent of the county’s master plan and scored quite high for the LEAD Silver environmental rating.

There was quite a bit of talk about creating an urban environment to stay in step with the county’s master plan. Grumblatt asked the committee if they liked the master plan to which some said yes and others said no.

“I don’t think this is an urban environment and I don’t think we should pretend that it is, but I wasn’t around when the master plan was created,” Terry Goldman said.

Primak intends to meet with Los Alamos National Bank CEO Bill Enloe to discuss the possibility of a shared parking facility should the committee ultimately select a scheme located on number 13 site.

County Administrator-elect Tony Mortillaro explained that a parking structure could attract further development.

“If it accommodates parking to retail and office condos or living space it could be an incentive for a developer to construct a project without having to spend money for a parking structure,” Mortillaro said.

The working budget for the new 48,000 square-foot building is about $15 million and there’s also the possibility of an additional $5 million in economic development funds that could be incorporated in the project if necessary.

The architects explained that to construct surface parking runs some $12,000 per parking space, while parking spaces one level above ground run $17,000 each. The cost jumps to $23,000 per space one level below ground and $27,000 per space at two levels below ground.

Committee meetings feature two public comment periods at the beginning and end of each meeting. Few community members attended Thursday’s meeting and just a couple asked questions or made comments related to the various schematics.

For members of the public who cannot attend committee meetings, comments about the process or the two sites can e-mailed to paul.belson@lacnm.us.

The committee is still on track to finalize their recommendations on a new site for the municipal building by Sept. 30.

Two public meetings remain to discuss the sites and schemes — next Thursday and Sept. 30. Both meetings begin at 6 p.m. in council chambers.

Follow-up information  from FBT Architects as well as a report from EPS, Inc. about the economic study and impacts of placing the new building at either of the two sites downtown, will be discussed at next Thursday’s meeting.

Public comment on the committee’s recommendations is expected to open Oct. 1 with the publishing of the committee’s recommendations. In October, the full report will be posted on the county’s Web site, at the 311 Customer Care Center and at both libraries.

The municipal building site issue has tentatively been scheduled to go before county council Oct. 27 at which time a site may be decided upon.

Contact Carol A. Clark lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her newsblog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.