A new report released by the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land indicates that dog park construction continues to accelerate across the country.
In fact, according to the nonprofit group, such parks today make up the fastest growing segments inside the park departments of the country’s largest cities.
As of the end of 2018, there were 810 operational dog parks in the U.S. That number is up from 774 in 2017, and nearly twice what existed as recently as 2009 when there were 466 such parks nationally.
Cities in the West are among those who have seen the most significant dog park growth.
Portland, Oregon, now has 33 dog parks, followed closely by San Francisco with 32 and Las Vegas at 26.
Also leading the list is Boise and Henderson, Nevada with 15 dog parks each, and Albuquerque with 14 parks.
According to the New York-based Stanton Foundation, which focuses on canine welfare issues, such parks, mostly with dual-gate entrances, on average usually measure just under 33,000 square feet and cost at least $250,000 to build.
Says the magazine CityLab: “Off-leash parks lead the way among the fastest growing parks in America’s largest cities.”
The magazine also notes that such parks are often built in upper income urban and suburban neighborhoods, adding: “Ultimately, dog parks represent decisions about land use, which means they can benefit some to the detriment of others.”
By Garry Boulard
Nearly eight years ago a building that had housed the Black Eyed Pea restaurant in Albuquerque was destroyed by a fire.
That structure, at 601 Juan Tabo Boulevard NE, had actually been vacant for several years preceding the fire and is part of a larger site that has for the most part been abandoned for more than a decade.
Now city officials are hoping that the site can be brought back to life. In so doing, members of the Albuquerque Development Commission have voted to officially include the entire site into the city’s East Gateway Metropolitan Redevelopment Area.
That designation, according to city documents, will make the area “more welcoming to residents and visitors arriving at the city’s edge by facilitating redevelopment of vacant and underutilized properties and providing for a greater variety of businesses and services that are needed in the area.”
The designation also means that any new commercial construction within its borders would be eligible for significant city tax incentives.
The site belongs to the Orlando-based GRMI, Inc., which is a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, Inc.
Neither Darden Restaurants nor GRMI has indicated any specific future plans for the Juan Tabo site.
Darden’s restaurant brands, located in more than 1,500 locations nationally, include the Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Longhorn Steakhouse, Seasons 52, and Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen.
To date, the company has more than more than a dozen restaurants of varying brands up and running in New Mexico.
By Garry Boulard
The El Paso County Planning Commission has give its approval to a project that will see the construction, on a 40-acre site, of a new shooting range just outside the town of Ramah, Colorado.
The new shooting complex will be built by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department.
The project is set to go up at the Ramah Reservoir State Wildlife Area and will see the building of 10-foot high baffles and beams designed to protect nearby residents from stray bullets, while also lessening the noise from the range.
As planned, the project, which has been the subject of several public input meetings, will also include the construction of shade shelters and firing benches. The site would also include two pistol galleries and five individual rifle ranges.
Those galleries and ranges will be of varying lengths.
Work could begin on what is estimated to be a $500,000 project later this year.
Although the project sparked the opposition of neighbors who said they were concerned about increased traffic and the possibility of being hit by bullets fired on the range, it also won the support of the Colorado Springs Gazette.
By Garry Boulard
A move to pay more attention to how schools are designed, in an effort to make them both more safe and energy efficient, is being promoted by the American Institute of Architects.
As officials of that group are meeting with congressional leaders in Washington, William Batles, AIA president, released a statement declaring, “We need lawmakers to hear firsthand how architects are creative problem-solvers who see the big picture and bring the innovative instinct and technical knowledge that is needed to address many of our most challenging issues.”
Specifically, the organization is asking Congress to make design services eligible for existing federal grants.
The group has also said that it wants to see established a federally-run clearinghouse of design resources that could be regularly tapped by education officials when planning or building a new school facility.
In a “Where We Stand” statement, the AIA has additionally noted: “Much of the public debate about school safety has focused on access to firearms and mental health services. Neither approach to solving school violence has progressed much over many years despite all-too-frequent tragedies.”
The statement added: “Architects can improve school safety through the power of design now.”
The clearinghouse idea won the support late last year of the Federal Commission on School Safety.
On the issue of making school buildings more energy efficient, the AIA is asking Congress to establish a new tax incentive that would allow for enhancing energy efficiency features in both new and existing structures.
By Garry Boulard
A new 1 million square foot facility for the production of hydrogen fuel cell trucks is set to go up in Coolidge, Arizona.
The Nikola Motor Company has announced that it wants to build the plant on roughly 400 acres inside what is called the Inland Port Authority/Pinal Logistics Park as a move to meet the demand for its highly popular class eight trucks.
The project, is being done in conjunction with Saint Holdings, a land holding company based in Scottsdale.
The move complements a larger trend that is seeing a general rise in vehicle manufacturing throughout southern Arizona.
Because the facility will eventually hire a workforce of more than 2,000 people, Trevor Milton, the chief executive officer of Nikola, noted the positive community aspects of the project. “Imagine what it will do for property values, schools, parks, and other city improvements,” Milton said in a statement.
Nikola officials are hoping to see work begin on the new manufacturing plant later this year.
Based in Phoenix, the five year-old Nikola Motor Company is named after legendary inventor Nikola Tesla, and specializes in electric semi-trucks as well as electric components and drivetrains.
Customer interest and demand in Nikola’s electric Class 8 heavy truck has been significant with more than 13,000 of those vehicles, according to the company, already pre-ordered.
Nikola’s plans for opening up a new manufacturing facility in Coolidge have been in the talking stage for several months.
Last September members of the Coolidge City Council entered into a development agreement with the company that included a package of tax incentives, including a 49 percent sales tax reimbursement, to get the facility built in Coolidge.
By Garry Boulard
The entire New Mexico congressional delegation is lobbying to have the newly-created federal Space Development Agency put down roots in the Land of Enchantment.
That agency, operating as a separate entity under the umbrella of the Department of Defense, would be tasked with overall policy and program development, as well as the execution of next-generation military space capabilities.
Patrick Shanahan, acting secretary of defense, has explained in a Defense Department memo that the agency would also would be responsible for building a “national space architecture that provides the persistent, resilient, global, low-latency surveillance needed to deter or, if deterrence fails, defeat adversary action.”
The Department of Defense wants $149 million in the fiscal year 2020 federal budget to get the agency going.
But where exactly the agency will ultimately be housed remains an open question.
New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, along with Representatives Deb Haaland, Ben Ray Lujan, and Xochitl Torres Small, have jointly signed a letter to the Defense Department stating that New Mexico is “already home to many of the nation’s core space assets and has a significant space R & D community.”
The letter additionally notes the existence of the Space Rapid Capabilities Office at the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, as well as the sprawling Spaceport America facility just outside of Truth or Consequences.
Competition for securing the Space Development Agency base is expected to be waged by several other states, including Alabama, which is the home to the Huntsville-based U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
By Garry Boulard
An end of the year 2018 decline in the Gross Domestic Product should be viewed in the context of the larger robust year, says a Department of Commerce official.
Nothing that overall the GDP was up by 3.1 percent for the entire year, Brian Moyer, undersecretary for economic affairs with the Commerce Department, asserted that that 3.1 percent “provides a focused picture of how the economy has grown from the last part of 2017 to the last part of 2018.”
In a statement, Moyer additionally noted that private domestic investment in 2018 grew 7 percent, the fastest growth rate in more than a decade.
Despite those numbers, some economists are predicting a GDP decrease for the rest of this year.
According to the CNBC Fed Survey, the GDP growth rate is pegged at 2.3 percent for the duration of 2019, with an even slower growth rate of just 2.0 percent in 2020.
In the face of that decline, Ben Casselman, a financial analyst writing in the New York Times, suggests that all such numbers should be kept in perspective.
“The fourth quarter slowdown wasn’t as severe as many forecasters had feared,” said Casselman, “and even with the loss of momentum late in the year, 2018 as a whole was among the best years of the decade-long recovery from the Great Recession.”
Analysts have also noted that in the face of the declining GDP, the nation’s construction industry continued to post late 2018 gains, driven partly by a 4.1 percent increase in non-residential buildings, along with a 2.1 percent increase in residential construction.
By Garry Boulard
A two-story brick building in downtown El Paso, that for some 90 years served as the home to a J.C. Penney department store, is on the verge of being readapted for a new use by a local real estate investor.
Michael Johnson, owner of the El Paso-based MJ Real Properties, has purchased the Penney’s building at 325 E. San Antonio Avenue with the intention of bringing the property back to life.
The Plano, Texas-based Penney’s chain closed the El Paso store in the summer of 2017 as part of a larger national effort seeing some 140 of its more than 1,000 outlets put out of business.
In a continued cost-cutting effort, Penney’s last month announced the closing of an additional 27 stores.
Johnson has said that he may build a dozen or so loft-style apartments at the former Penney’s site, while also refurbishing the building’s façade.
Giant cement slabs that were added in later decades in an attempt to give the store a modern look will be removed, revealing the building’s brick exterior, and emphasizing its large front bay windows, which will shaded by wrap-around metal awnings.
The structure’s exterior work is partly being funded through a grant from the El Paso Downtown Management District’s Commercial Façade Improvement Program.
The total cost of the exterior project is estimated at just over $86,000.
The Penney’s chain was launched in 1902 and for decades was known for its wide variety of work clothing and shoes, as well as home furnishings and accessories.
In the wake of the chain’s outlet closings, other retailers have moved in to repurpose those vacant Penney’s store.
The Rochester, New York-based grocery chain Wegmann’s has reconverted a former Penney’s store in Natick, Massachusetts; while Home Décor Superstores of Plano, Texas has done the same with a one-time Penney’s outlet in Longmont, Colorado.
By Garry Boulard
What is being billed as an energy park that would stretch nearly 2,000 miles along the U.S./Mexican border is being proposed as an alternative to the construction of a border wall.
The idea is being touted as akin to the massive public works project as embodied by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1930s, and one that would respond to the energy needs of both countries.
Spearheaded by the National Academy of Engineering, the proposal is the result of a consortium of nearly thirty eminent scientists and engineers who say the park would include the construction of gas and water pipelines, as well as wind turbines and energy panels.
In a press release, Luciano Castillo, a professor of renewable energy and power systems at Purdue University, said the project would be built in the tradition of previous grand-scale infrastructure projects that may have initially been seen as improbable.
“Just like the transcontinental railroad transformed the United States in the 19th century, or the Interstate system transformed the 20th century, this would be a national infrastructure project for the 21st century,” said Castillo.
Looking at the unusual proposal, Scientific American magazine remarked: “Crazy? Maybe—or maybe not. History is full of ideas that initially sounded wacky yet ended up changing society.”
The project would be built as a kind of opportunity zone for both countries to not just provide energy solutions, but also address water availability issues that challenge farmers on both sides of the border.
Castillo has said that the project would also uniquely respond to the concerns of leaders and interest groups in the U.S. across the political divide, from those who see border security as a paramount issue, to those who are touting the Green New Deal.
Advocates of the project say they intend to more fully publicize the idea in a series of workshops held throughout the southwest in the coming months, while also talking with Congressional leaders about the energy park’s potential.
By Garry Boulard
A project that could see the construction of a multi-purpose water park in El Paso may end up being built on a portion of a site belonging to a middle school.
That site, at 6101 Hughey Drive in central El Paso, is the home to the Ross Middle School, one of the more than fifty elementary schools belonging to the El Paso Independent School District.
Because students from that school are being sent to the nearby Hughey Elementary School as part of a district-wide consolidation initiative, the site is open for other uses.
EPISD officials have indicated that they are open to selling a 5-acre portion of the site for around $540,000.
The water park itself is expected to cost up to $7 million to build, with most of the funding for the project coming out of the Quality of Life bond approved by El Paso voters in 2012.
Initial reports indicate that the park will include water slides, lazy rivers, lap pools, and climbing walls.
City officials have said that they’d like to see the water park completed in time for the 2020 summer season.
By Garry Boulard
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