NADG gets tentative nod from Trinity Site Committee

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By Kirsten Laskey

Editor’s note: Due to a computer glitch, the story that published in Tuesday’s print edition was an unedited working draft of this report. The following is the final edited piece that was intended for publication. The Monitor regrets any confusion this may have caused.

Although not yet set in stone, the Trinity Site Revitalization Project Advisory Committee tentatively recommended North American Development Group be awarded the proposed retail project during a special Los Alamos County Council session Monday night.

The committee expects to make a formal and final recommendation prior to the Nov. 9 county council meeting.

Some 60 developers were approached regarding the project and ultimately nine expressed interest. Through reviews, written responses to questions and formal interviews, the list was then dropped to four and two finalists emerged: North American Development Group and Lockard Development Corporation.

North American Development Group, according to the county Web site, manages and owns more than 10 million square feet of shopping center space in the U.S. and Canada.

The Web site also indicates that Lockard Development is a private company with shopping centers across the county, especially in the northeast.

What made North American Development stand out from the competition was the fact that they have a commitment from a major anchor, The Kroger Company, which is the parent company of Smith’s.

Other strengths identified, committee member Lynn Ovaska told the Monitor, were “You really saw that they (NADG) are committed to Los Alamos and they have the financial backing.”

She added while other developers are financially strong, North American Development had a more complete package. But the biggest thing, Ovaska said, was that the developer is financially viable.

The goal, committee member Kevin Holsapple said, was to bring revenue to Los Alamos Public Schools and enhance retail, quality of life and the tax base for the county.

The process has involved reviewing proposals from the developers and meeting with several developers and conducting tours.

The Public Information and Involvement Plan, approved by council in July, committee member Eugene Schmidt said, is in place to help inform the public that the project is moving forward and to get people involved in the ongoing process.

To continue public input, committee members will be on hand at the Farmers Market and Trick or Treat on MainStreet. There will also be two public listening sessions Nov. 1 and Nov. 4.  A Web site is under development as well, www.trinitysite.info.

The committee also has members who are available to attend service clubs and board meetings to discuss the project.

Getting the Trinity site developed, committee member Kristin Henderson said, is important. “It is in the best interest of the county and the school district to develop the Trinity Site.”

Committee member Bill Enloe agreed. “It’s important for us to stay focused on the responsibility the committee was charged with.”

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle wondered why the committee was not presenting a final recommendation.

Schmidt said the committee is moving in a positive, good direction but they can’t give a final recommendation until the committee has spoken with representatives of the major anchor slated for the site.

Chiravalle said while he saw a letter from Smith’s, which shows a commitment to the site, he is concerned that on Nov. 9, the council could get a different recommendation.
Enloe said the committee is 99 percent comfortable with the current selection.

Councilor Nona Bowman wondered if Kroger does bring a Smith’s to the Trinity Site, what would happen to the Mari-Mac Shopping Center, which Kroger purchased a few years ago.

Holsapple said this is still a question that needs to be answered.

Bowman joked that she worked on this project when her children were young. Now, they are grown with children of their own so she hopes revitalizing Trinity will finally come to pass.

Councilor Mike Wheeler asked if housing was being considered for the development.

County Administrator Tony Mortillaro said there were no offers for housing except from one of the developers, Branch Realty in Santa Fe.

He added housing would offer benefits through property taxes, gross receipts taxes and potential shoppers so it is something that could be considered in the future.

Ralph Phelps questioned the transparency and public involvement in the selection process.

Enloe said a lot of individuals have voiced their thoughts regarding the project.

Cunningham said there will be opportunities to exchange information and for the community to understand the committee’s stance. “It’s a real exchange of information,” she said.

Councilor Robert Gibson also questioned providing information, saying it would be nice to see the scores given to the developers and the criteria for those scores.

Holsapple said, personally, the goals for the project (to generate revenue for the school district) carried more significance than the criteria.

Gibson also wondered why Kroger would want to build a new store on Trinity when the company owns the property across the street.

Kevin Wayer of Jones Lang LaSalle, which was hired to assist the county in the developer selection process, said there are some constraints at the Mari-Mac Shopping Center that are not easily overcome.

It was emphasized throughout the meeting how important the development is for Los Alamos. Schmidt said the community is aging and if the community expects to attract younger people, there needs to be a reason for them to come to Los Alamos. “If you build it," he said, “they will come.”