In a corner of New Mexico that has relied for decades on the vagaries of mining and oil and gas exploration, a move is underway to make outdoor recreation a new source of economic growth.
“While we have focused all this time on taking things out of the ground, we should have been looking at the things above the ground that we enjoy,” says Cory Styron in explaining the Farmington effort of offering the wonders of the outdoor world to both locals and tourists.
“Mother Nature has blessed us with some of the most spectacular geology around,” says Styron, who is the director of the City of Farmington’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Initiative, “and our ancient history here is second to none.”
The effort to fully take advantage of the city’s natural resources really got its legs nearly two years ago when the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau conducted a study looking at what people liked the most about the Four Corners city and how Farmington branded itself.
“And through that research we found out that this is a place where outdoor lovers and active families thrive and wanted more positive and memorable outdoor experiences,” says Styron.
That study led to the creation of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Initiative itself, a move greatly buttressed last August by passage of a quarter percent gross receipts tax, the revenues of which can be applied to community transformation and economic development projects.
An emphasis on Farmington’s outdoor industry would also, remarked outdoor recreation consultant James Glover in a public meeting earlier this year, bring to the city businesses manufacturing products supporting that industry.
“We are in a position even more than some communities because we have the capacity,” said Glover, according to the Farmington Daily Times. “We have a lot of empty buildings left over from the oil and gas industry. Those buildings are perfect for somebody who wants to come in and manufacture a kayak or somebody that wants to manufacture a mountain bike.”
Now comes the next step: the hoped-for creation and building of an aerial adventure park to go up in one of several sites still under discussion.
“This is a part of the additional components of outdoor recreation that we see that would be a benefit and a draw to this community,” Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett noted of the aerial park proposal during a recent city council meeting, adding that such a park would “add to the quality of life for the citizens who live here.”
The subject of several public input meetings, as well as a survey conducted during Farmington’s annual Boopalooza event in October, the unique park could include a number of attractions, all of which provide evidence of how perceptions of enjoying the outdoors have in recent years undergone a transformation.
“It is not so much about stopping by and taking a picture anymore,” says Stryon in explaining that today’s nature enthusiasts are increasingly interactive. “Now people want to feel an adrenaline rush, that ‘wind in our faces’ kind of experience.”
Aerial parks, increasingly popular across the country, offer those experiences in abundance, with such physically challenging features as spider nets, rickety bridges, swinging platforms, rope ladders, and rock climbing.
Such parks also increasingly feature ziplines, a cable made of stainless steel and traversed by a pulley attached to a suspended cable allowing users to float in the air many or a few feet above the ground.
The parks are a part of a giant outdoor recreation industry, according to the Outdoor Industry Association, generating more than $887 billion in consumer spending annually.
That same report revealed that annual consumer spending on outdoor recreational pursuits in New Mexico is near the $10 billion mark. In Arizona the numbers were just a little over $21 billion, while in Colorado $28 billion was spent on such activities.
To better get a feel for how an aerial park would work in Farmington, the city has contracted out with Groundworks Studio of Albuquerque to put together a feasibility study and market analysis looking at how such a facility could economically sustain itself, as well as where would be the best place to build it.
Two areas under consideration: the Animas Park near the Willet Ditch, and the Berg Park, a popular public space known for its already-existing play areas, trails, and access to the Animas River.
During a community meeting on the proposal in November, Amy Bell, principal landscape architect with Groundworks Studio, said that her firm is also studying how much admission to the park would cost, as well as how long it will take for Farmington to get back whatever it invests in building the park in the first place.
City officials have previously suggested that the park, depending upon its parameters and features, could be built for anywhere between $750,000 to $1.5 million.
But Styron cautions: “We don’t know yet what the actual proposal will look like, so we don’t know the cost.”
“But in our initial research we thought we could have something pretty nice in the community within that range,” he adds.
Also still to be determined in coming months is whether or not building the park will ultimately be a public/private partnership or something that Farmington will take on by itself.
Either way, says Styron, “I think we’re on the verge of something new and healthy and exciting that is really going to prove popular in our city.”
By Garry Boulard
An El Paso building, treasured by preservationists and historians for its Art Deco design, may soon see new life as a renovated property.
El Paso oilman and developer Paul Foster has secured the winning bid at auction to purchase the Kress Building, located in downtown El Paso at Mills Avenue and Oregon Street.
Foster’s $2.2 million bid was accepted after a competing $3 million bid was withdrawn.
Opened in 1938, the El Paso Kress Building was part of a larger national retail chain established by Samuel Kress and operating as full-service, multi-story department stores into the early 1980s.
In the years since, many of the Kress structures have been repurposed by new owners and turned into retail, residential, and office sites.
A large number of the Kress buildings, including the one in El Paso, have since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The El Paso structure, according to author Carla Breeze in her book American Art Deco, is especially distinctive because of its “pale beige terra-cotta” with overall “synthesized decorative elements derived from the Alhambra in Spain.”
Located across the street from the San Jacinto Plaza, the Kress building has, according to city officials, fallen into disrepair in recent years under the ownership of El Paso real estate investor William Abraham.
The auctioning of the Kress building is part of a larger process being overseen by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas to settle some $30 million in debts owed by Abraham.
Foster, who is also the president of Franklin Mountain Management, has invested tens of millions of dollars restoring such historic El Paso buildings as the Plaza Hotel and the Anson Mills Building.
By Garry Boulard
Responding to an ongoing survey conducted by the Washington-based American Institute of Architects, architecture firms are reporting ongoing growth in the number of new projects taken on, a trend that has continued without interruption since the fall of 2017.
The AIA uses what it calls an Architectural Billings Index that measures the percentage of firms with higher billings over the previous reporting period, and noting that for October of this year those billings have once again exceeded the break-even mark of 50.
Even more, the index records an overall seasonally adjusted index score of 54.7.
The numbers only vary depending upon the professional focus of the firm, with mixed practice firms reporting a score of 53.9, and residential and institutional-oriented firms reporting scores of 51.2 and 50.8, respectively.
Regionally, firms in the Northwest reported the most project growth at 56.8, followed by firms in the Midwest at 53.1, and the South, at 50.5.
The lowest growth rate was reported with firms in the West at 49.0.
On a separate but related question, asking member firms what their greatest concerns were for the coming year, some 30 percent said trying to find new qualified staff, followed by 26 percent who pointed to the challenge of increasing profitability.
And while only 15 percent of firms nationally in last year’s AIA survey listed “coping with an unpredictable economy,” that number today has jumped to 25 percent.
By Garry Boulard
A rapidly growing neighborhood that uniquely spans both north Phoenix and north Scottsdale could soon be the home to a new luxury apartment complex.
Lennar Multifamily Communities, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, has announced that it wants to build the project in the 1500 block of N. 71st Street, between Paradise and East Tierra lanes, in the Kierland neighborhood.
The company purchased two buildings at the four-acre site, which will be demolished to make way for a project that will include both apartments and some townhouses.
According to City of Phoenix documents, the project will additionally include a fitness center, swimming pool, dog park, and landscaped open area.
The new luxury apartment entry arrives in a local market seeing one-bed room apartments going for upwards of $1,500 a month and more.
Kierland, located some 20 miles to the northeast of downtown Phoenix, has increasingly become a popular destination neighborhood with new retail and office development, as well as the building of upscale rental space.
Developed in the 1990s as a master-planned community, Kierland today, according to the Scottsdale Independent, is “one of the most vibrant and iconic urban cores in the Phoenix metropolitan area.”
Plans currently call for work to begin on the new apartment complex sometime next fall, with a 2021 completion date.
By Garry Boulard
A Fort Collins project that has been in the works, in one form or another, for some seven years, may be on its way to final city approval.
The Boulder-based Elevations Credit Union wants to build a combined office, retail, and residential space at 221 E. Mountain Avenue in downtown Fort Collins.
That roughly half-acre site was formerly the home of the Mountain View Tire Shop.
As originally proposed by MAV Development, which has offices in Broomfield, the site would see the construction of a 67,000 square-foot building in a part of the city populated with one and two-story offices and retail space.
But when nothing came of that plan, the Elevations Credit Union, in 2017, purchased the site for $2.3 million, subsequently announcing plans for a new structure.
As proposed, that four-story building will measure a larger 78,000 square-feet, and will feature some condominiums and Class A office space in a section of Denver lacking in such space.
The Elevations Credit Union plans to use two floors of the new building for a full-service branch location, as well as its offices.
The project has now received the approval of the Fort Collins Landmark Preservation Commission, and is on its way to the city’s Downtown Development Authority for review.
Project architect is the Neenan Company of Fort Collins.
By Garry Boulard
For this first time in 2018, less than half of the states saw new construction hiring, even as the demand for new construction workers nationally remains high.
Those numbers, said Association of General Contractors economist Ken Simonson in a statement, may indicate that “contactors are unable to find qualified workers, rather than a slacking in demand for construction.”
Overall, according to Department of Labor statistics analyzed by the Washington-based Association of General Contractors, 23 states added new construction jobs between October and November of this year.
During this same time period, construction job openings totaled around 292,000, an increase of 25 percent from October of 2017, and the highest such number since the Labor Department began surveying on this subject in 2000.
States with the greatest amount of new construction hiring in the last year include Arizona, with 18,500 new jobs.
In the category of one-month gains between October and November of this year, Texas added 2,700 new jobs, followed by Pennsylvania at 1,900; and Arizona, again, with 1,900 new jobs.
The AGC statistics also showed that New Mexico’s construction employment grew from 47,100 in November of last year to 50,000 this November.
At the same time, new construction jobs in Colorado went from 167,200 to 169,500; with Texas seeing a jump from 727,100 to 774,200.
The latest numbers show the West as the region with the most construction job growth: of the top ten states adding employment, five were in the West, while the remaining states were divided between the East, Mid-West, and South.
By Garry Boulard
Corrales, Deming, Las Vegas, Silver City, the South Valley in Bernalillo County, and Tucumcari are all receiving funding for a number of innovative projects designed to spur downtown revitalization.
The New Mexico Economic Development Department’s New Mexico Main Street program is providing the funding, which has a total dollar value of $500,000.
The new funding will target the Corrales Pathway, a project designed to construct a pedestrian access route along busy Corrales Road, extending from Meadowlark Road to Wager Road.
Deming will apply Main Street funding to its Zia Sun Art-Scape Intersection Project, seeing the creation of public artwork at the intersection of Gold Street and Spruce Streets.
Upgrades and improvements are also slated for Rail Road Avenue in Las Vegas, between Lincoln Avenue to Grand Avenue, while Silver City will see the construction of public restrooms, and both artisan and events space, for its Big Ditch Park.
Main Street funding will also pay for improvements to a grower’s market at the Dolores Huerta Gateway Park in Bernalillo County’s South Valley, as well as the upgrading of three blocks, including sidewalk widening and extension, in downtown Tucumcari.
In a statement, Matt Geisel, the secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, said the $500,000 will help the grant recipients with projects that “capitalize on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential to revitalize downtown districts and create centers of economic activity.”
Founded in 1984, the New Mexico Main Street program is dedicated to bringing back to life the once-thriving downtowns of cities, towns, and villages across the state. It offers support and advice on protecting historic properties and is licensed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
By Garry Boulard
Following on the big purchase of 93 acres of state trust land in Arizona, a San Diego-based developer with projects throughout the southwest is offering the land for the building of two business parks.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook on this,” says Mark Krison, the senior vice-president of advisory and transaction services with the CRBE Group’s Phoenix offices.
“These state auction sites almost never become available,” continues Krison, whose company is in charge of leasing for the project, “and when they do you see a lot of pent-up demand.”
The wide-open, vacant land in question is just southwest of Bell Road and 19th Avenue, not far from the Turf Paradise racetrack.
In June, Sunbelt Holdings LP submitted the $26.5 million winning bid for the land in an Arizona State Land Department auction, seeing the bidding starting at $18 million—the appraised value of the land.
State trust land originally comprised more than 10 million across set aside by the federal government when Arizona was still a territory.
By law, proceeds from the sale or leasing of Arizona State trust land have since been relegated to a number of funds, the largest of which goes to K-12 educational purposes.
To date, more than $2 billion from state trust land transactions have gone to Arizona’s schools.
Recent successful bids include $83 million to develop 134 acres for a mixed-use project in Scottsdale; $10.6 million for a 210-acre housing development project in Tucson; and $900,000 for six acres in Gila Bend to be used for a travel center development.
At the time of Sunbelt’s winning bid, Lisa Atkins, the State Land Commissioner, noted in a statement that her department’s mission is to “manage assets of a multi-generational perpetual Trust for both its beneficiaries and for the future of this State.”
The sale of the 93 acres to Sunbelt Land Holdings, Atkins continued, “is an example of that responsible, sustainable management, providing financial growth to Trust beneficiaries and contributing to economic growth for the people of Arizona.”
Trust land, according to local analysts, has become particularly valuable in recent years, as the amount of available private property available for development in metro Phoenix and Tucson has grown smaller.
And that applies, in particular, to the Sunbelt purchase: “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and we’ve never had anything like this happen,” says Krison.
“It’s very rare to get a site in the middle of town that doesn’t have any buildings on it,” he adds.
Sunbelt actually plans to build two business parks: one on the land it purchased at auction, and the other, measuring 51 acres, near the Loop 202 freeway and 40th street.
The Bell 17 Business Park, some 15 miles north of downtown Phoenix, will feature some 1 million square feet of space and the construction of anywhere from a dozen to 16 buildings.
Phoenix-based Balmer Architectural Group is the designer for the project.
According to plans, general industrial buildings at the site will measure between 38, 300 square feet to 61,600 square feet.
Flex office buildings will measure anywhere between 74,250 square feet and 86,400 square feet, while corporate office building construction is set for between 50,160 square feet and 101,200 square feet.
A brochure by Sunbelt describes the Bell 17 Business Park as a campus with a “modern park design, with buildings surrounded by extensive mature landscaping.”
Work on both the Bell 17 Business Park, as well as what is being called the Skyway 202 Business Park, is expected to begin sometime next year.
“We are leasing right now,” says Krison, noting that together, the two parks will comprise some 1.8 million square feet.
The work at 19th and Bell Road, according to locals, has been a long time coming on a site that has been vacant for decades.
An earlier planned business park on a portion of the site, called Phoenix Northgate, never became reality, although for years several sculptures by the late Harold Pastorius decorated the land there.
What had been called Phoenix Northgate was a proposed 283-acre commercial center that in the mid-1980s was designed to attract hotels, restaurants, banks, and even some housing, but went into foreclosure in 1990.
By Garry Boulard
Members of the Larimer County Commission may decide in February whether they like a new route being proposed for a 26-mile section of a planned water pipeline.
The City of Thornton, Colorado, with a population that has jumped from just over 82,000 in the last two decades to nearly 137,000 today, has long said that it needs to have a modern water pipeline system to adequately serve its residents.
Thornton officials have additionally said that they would like that system, transporting an average of 14,000 acre-feet annually from the Poudre River, to be operational by no later than 2025.
But where the 48-inch in diameter pipeline will be built has turned out to be a more challenging question than first imagined.
An initial proposal to have the pipeline run up and down Larimer County’s Douglas Road has been roundly criticized by area residents who say that thoroughfare is already too clogged with traffic.
Now, Thornton is proposing a new north-to-south route that will see the pipeline constructed along the much less busy County Road 56.
In an effort to win Larimer County’s approval, Thornton is additionally offering to pay $1 million to mitigate any road impact due to the pipeline’s construction, as well as $750,000 for diversion dam improvements on the Poudre River.
In response, the Larimer County Commission is scheduled to hear public comments on the revised plan in January.
If approved and finally built, the 70-mile pipeline is expected to cost over $430 million upon completion.
By Garry Boulard
Developers across the country are increasingly working into their projects a desire for more green and social space, putting up complexes that are more than ever located near recreation centers, parks, and playgrounds.
Those are the findings of a comprehensive study conducted by the Urban Land Institute indicating that developers are looking at a growing tenant demand for more health-oriented affordable housing projects.
The report, Healthy Housing for All: How Affordable Housing is Leading the Way, contends that today’s affordable housing industry “has pioneered innovative solutions to support resident health through housing design, development, and operations.”
The report points to two projects, one in Colorado and the other New Mexico, as examples of the new health-oriented housing construction trend.
The Mariposa project undertaken by the Denver Housing Authority was built after significant community input, transforming the surrounding neighborhood, and sparking investment in a “previously overlooked area.”
The end result is a complex with rents ranging from $50 to $1,170, as well as a full-service pharmacy, 24-hour grocery store, and handful of area community and conventional banks.
All of the complex’s amenities, says the report, have in one way or the other added to the health and well-being of it’s tenants.
The Silver Moon Lodge in Albuquerque is lauded in the report for offering a “mixed-use affordable housing development” with a bike-friendly design, community space, and only 23 parking spaces for 154 units, which, “significantly reduced the costs associated with building parking.”
Such projects, says the Urban Land Institute report, can serve as a blueprint for other projects nationally.
The report also suggests that developers should increase their investments in both indoor and outdoor gathering spaces, noting that such areas “establish a sense of community and reduce social isolation, while also driving resident retention and minimizing turnover.”
In a statement, W. Edward Walter, chief executive officer of the Urban Land Institute, said every new housing project should be regarded by developers as an opportunity to “invest in a community’s overall health and well-being, social equity and cohesion, environmental sustainability, and overall quality of life.”
The Washington-based Urban Land Institute has a membership made up of more than 42,000 real estate and urban development professionals.
By Garry Boulard
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