In its latest move to secure the construction of an extensive resort water park and hotel, the El Paso City Council has voted to approve an agreement that will also allow for the construction of a convention center as part of the project.
El Paso officials have been trying for more than a year to entice the Chicago-based Great Wolf Lodge, which specializes in water parks and resort hotels, to build on a site off of Paseo del Norte Boulevard on the northwest side of the city.
Late last year, the city council agreed to purchase the land from developer Paul Foster, specifically for Great Wolf Lodge’s purposes.
The prospect of the Great Wolf Lodge locating and building in El Paso has won widespread support in the city, most recently from the El Paso Hotel and Lodging Association.
Now, the council has approved a new agreement with Great Wolf Lodge that will allow El Paso to take advantage of a recent law approved by the Texas Legislature allowing the city to receive millions in incentives if it owns the Great Wolf Lodge land and convention center for at least a decade.
One of the reasons for the push to secure the Great Wolf Lodge project is the expansive nature of the company’s properties, which include multiple water slides, pools, and play areas, across dozens of acres, and hotels housing up to 600 rooms and more.
Construction costs for Great Wolf Lodge resorts are often in excess of $150 million.
The company currently has resorts up and running in more than a dozen states, and opened its latest property last month in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Officials with the Great Wolf Lodge have yet to indicate whether they want to build in El Paso, but a decision is expected sometime by early next year.
By Garry Boulard
More than two dozen transportation, engineering, and construction industry groups have come out in opposition to a move to reduce national public transit infrastructure spending.
As currently proposed, the latest Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill would reduce public spending for transit by more than $457 million next year.
Groups expressing opposition to the move include the American Public Transportation Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Associated General Contractors of America.
In an open letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the groups argue that “infrastructure investment is critical for our nation’s economic growth,” adding that “now is the time to invest more, not less, in public transportation.”
In urging for increased funding levels, the letter continues: “Increased investment will provide the necessary resources to begin to address the more than $90 billion state-of-good-repair backlog in our nation’s transit systems and meet the mobility demands of growing communities.”
Although the current Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill, otherwise known as THUD, provides nearly $2 billion in Capital Investment Grants, that figure comprises the lowest federal funding level for such grants in nearly a decade.
The THUD legislation may be voted on by the full Senate later this year.
By Garry Boulard
Work on a sweeping array of infrastructure projects totaling nearly $320 million in Scottsdale is up for grabs in the city’s upcoming November election.
After months of public input designed to determine the city’s most pressing needs, voters will be looking at three separate bonds devoted to park and recreation facilities work; community space; and public safety and technology projects.
Among the work to be funded with the first $112 million bond is the replacement of a building at the Cactus Aquatic Center, and two new swimming pools. Aging buildings will be replaced at the Comprise Paiute Community Center, with a new dog park built for the interior of the Thompson Peak Park.
Also to be funded: the construction of a new 17-acre park in the city’s Whisper Rock neighborhood.
Question number two is also calling for $112 million in bonds for everything from replacing aging infrastructure and building an events space at the city’s Civic Center Plaza, to an irrigation project in the Vista del Camino Park, and seven separate facility/infrastructure projects for the popular West World special events facility.
The last question is calling for just over $94 million in bonds for a series of public safety projects including the replacement of Scottsdale’s aging planning and permitting software, employee training software, and emergency response equipment for the city’s fire department.
Scottsdale voters have not approved a major bond proposal in nearly 20 years.
In a public endorsement, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane said, “I certainly understand in our past years of difficult economic times a public desire to defer attention to long-term capital infrastructure needs. But now, answering these needs is more acute and there is no question on how needed these improvements are.”
By Garry Boulard
Work could begin later this year on the building of a 260,000 square foot warehouse and shipping facility on the west side of Albuquerque.
The Fort Worth-based Ben E. Keith Company says it wants to build the facility on a 50-acre site off of Gallatin Place NW, to the southeast of the intersection of Interstate 40 and Unser Boulevard, and hopes to see the building completed sometime in 2021.
Warehousing and distributing any number of food and drink products across an extensive system that includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Alabama, the large Ben E. Keith Company had revenues last year of more than $5.5 billion.
The company, whose slogan for decades has been “Fresh From Keith’s,” supplies frozen foods, produce and groceries, among other items, to schools, hospitals, and restaurants across the country.
The company’s beverage division, meanwhile, sells such nationally popular Anheuser-Busch products as Budweiser, Bud Light, and Michelob Ultra.
Currently operating a 63,000 square-foot facility on Broadway Boulevard SE in Albuquerque, the Ben E. Keith Company’s new site will provide the company with enough room for any future expansion efforts.
Late last year members of the Bernalillo County Commission approved an industrial revenue bond of up to $80 million for the development of the new warehouse.
According to county documents, the company said it was requesting the bond funding in order to “facilitate its eventual goal to expand its regional operations to portions of Arizona and Colorado.”
By Garry Boulard
Architectural firms nationally are reporting a 2.5-point increase in billings during the month of September over the month before, says the Washington-based American Institute of Architects in its most recent Architectural Billings Index report.
The survey, which incorporates billings trends in small, medium, and large-sized architectural firms, scores billings on a zero to one hundred scale, with any score less than fifty pointing to a billings decrease from the month before.
While the September figures came in at 49.7, that number is still higher than the 47.2 recorded in August.
The billings survey also revealed that design contracts were significantly up in September over August, and that firm project backlogs continue to remain high at 6.2 months, although that number represented a slight decrease from the 6.5 posted earlier this summer.
“Billings remained weak at firms located in the Northeast and Midwest in September, softening further in both of those regions from August,” the report notes.
But growth continued at Southern firms for the second month in a row, “and for the fifth consecutive month at firms located in the West.”
Overall business conditions, continues the report, tended to hurt firms with either commercial or institutional specializations, but “improved at firms with a residential specialization, after a soft late spring and early summer period.”
In a statement, Kermit Baker, chief economist with the American Institute of Architects, said that even though the latest index represents a rebound in contracts, “Continued weakness in the larger economy still doesn’t bode well for future design services, which will likely see continued volatility in the months ahead.”
By Garry Boulard
Work could begin sometime next summer on a new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic designed to serve veterans in the northern Colorado region.
The facility, which will be a part of the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Health Care System, will go up on the east side of Loveland and, upon completion, will replace an existing VA clinic in Fort Collins.
Measuring more than 75,600 square feet, the new facility is expected to accommodate up to two hundred veterans on a daily basis, and will include a variety of health care services including physical therapy, eye and dental care, and radiology.
The clinic will be built at 4875 Byrd Drive on currently vacant land roughly 7 miles to the northeast of downtown Loveland.
In a signed column for the Wyoming News, Paul Roberts, director of the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Health Care System, said the new facility will “ensure that veterans in northern Colorado have the care and services they deserve.”
Funding for what is being called the Northern Colorado Outpatient Clinic is coming out of an appropriation recently approved by Congress.
It is thought that it will cost around $16 million to design and build the structure, which is expected to be completed and open for business in early 2022.
Founded in 1934, the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Health Care System currently operates community-based outpatient clinics serving an estimated 24,000 veterans in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
By Garry Boulard
A project that includes a 33-room hotel and a 30,000 square-foot conference center in Tempe, Arizona is being legally challenged by the State of Arizona.
Mark Brnovich, Attorney General for the state, is contending that the project, which will see an Omni brand hotel built on property belong to Arizona State University, violates the gift clause of Arizona’s state constitution.
Brnovitch is arguing that in leasing out property for commercial use, the Arizona Board of Regents, which approved the combined hotel/conference center project in 2016, is essentially providing a subsidy to a private developer.
What is being called the Omni Tempe, slated for just over 2 acres near Mill Avenue and E. University Drive, would also include restaurant and retail space, as well as a fitness center, offices, and meeting rooms.
Omni has said that it will pay $110 million to build the hotel, with ASU committing to nearly $20 million for the construction of the conference center.
Omni and ASU have also agreed to a 60-year ground lease, with Omni paying the school an upfront ground lease payment of $5.9 million.
Bronovich is charging that the hotel is actually getting a tax exemption because it will be built on tax-exempt university property.
Early arguments have now been heard in the Arizona Tax Court, with both sides indicating that the matter may ultimately be decided by the Arizona State Supreme Court.
By Garry Boulard
Business economists, according to a new industry survey, are feeling guardedly skeptical regarding growth in the next year.
The survey, conducted by the National Association for Business Economics, shows a decided minority of association and corporate economists expecting growth to surpass the 3 percent mark between now and most of next year.
That finding, in the association’s fall 2019 survey, indicates that 20 percent of respondents are felling bullish about next-year growth, a number far lower than the 48 percent predicting substantial growth last year at this time.
Some 69 percent also said they were anticipating a lower Gross Domestic Product growth of anywhere from 1.1 percent to 2.0 percent in 2020.
In looking at the numbers, Constance Hunter, president of the NABE, said, “Many of the survey indicators in this report are at their lowest levels in several years.”
But Hunter, in a statement, added: “It is important to note, however, that all respondents still expect the current economic expansion to continue over the next 12 months.”
One of the reasons for the decline in optimism, said Hunter, was the impact in the last year of U.S.-imposed tariffs on the country’s trading partners.
On a more positive note, the survey revealed that the challenge of attracting and holding onto qualified labor may be declining, with 43 percent reporting skilled labor shortages, compared with 53 percent earlier this year.
Those same respondents said that the firms they work with have moved to respond to ongoing staff shortage challenges, with 43 percent reporting that those firms have raised wages as a means of retaining talented and skilled staff.
By Garry Boulard
City officials in Roswell, New Mexico are hoping that long-held plans to build a new public safety complex will soon turn into reality.
For years, the current Roswell Police Department headquarters has been deemed too small, too outdated, and not in keeping with national standards.
That structure is located at 128 W. 2nd Street and was formerly the home office for the First Interstate Bank.
Now, members of the Roswell City Council have given the green light to putting on an upcoming ballot a question asking voters to approve a bond to fund construction of a new station.
That $35 million bond will pay for what is being called a public safety complex, which will also include a headquarters for the Roswell Fire Department, as well as a public safety dispatch office.
The new complex will additionally house new courtroom space for the Municipal Court of the City of Roswell, which currently operates out of a more than 60 year-old building burdened with a number of structural issues.
Noting that it could cost as much as $10 million to upgrade both the city’s police and fire department headquarters, Roswell officials believe building a new public safety complex will be more cost-effective all the way around.
The new complex could also help the city in the area of staff retention: City Manager Joe Neeb was quoted in the Roswell Daily Record as saying, “We are hoping that the investment that goes into that facility will help hold onto the quality employees who are serving in that public safety field.”
The bond election is scheduled for March 3.
By Garry Boulard
In an effort to understand the housing needs of its nearly 22,000 residents, the City of Gallup, New Mexico has issued a Request for Proposals for professional housing consulting services.
The idea animating the request is not to just look at the demand for housing, but also to explore the “preferences and gaps and the types of housing needed in the City of Gallup for the different demographic segments of the population.”
Once the market analysis is completed, city officials will have a better idea of how to tackle the housing needs of local residents.
According to Census Bureau records, some 20 percent of Gallup’s residents live below the poverty line, a number that increases to 26 percent for those 18 years of age or younger.
At the same time, the average rent in the city is now more than $1,100 a month, while home prices, according to the online real estate data base Zillow.com, is just over $148,000, the highest level since 2011.
Respondents to the RFP are being asked to put an emphasis on the “availability of land and public resources,” while also taking into consideration local code requirements.
Result of the study will better assist the City of Gallup in “carrying out its objectives in facilitating housing in a way that contributes to local community and economic development and sustainable growth.”
The project will be ultimately overseen by Gallup’s Planning and Development Department.
Deadline for the RFP is November 5.
By Garry Boulard
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