Plans are now in the talking stage to transform a popular and upscale shopping mall in Tucson into a mixed-use site.
The Foothills Mall is located on the north side of the city at the intersection of West Ina Road and La Cholla Boulevard and has served as a popular retail destination since it was first opened more than 35 year ago.
But now, the Tucson-based Bourn Companies has announced plans to transform the site into a town center with restaurants, entertainment venues, walking and biking paths, and perhaps several hotels.
According to Pima County documents submitted by Bourn, the mall will be transformed into a “unique, exciting, regional destination and living environment with existing infrastructure to support the multi-dimensional development.”
The estimated $500 million project, which may be done in phases over a 10-year period, will see large parts of the existing 560,000 square foot mall upgraded, while other structures on the site will be demolished.
Sitting on just over 68 acres, the mall was mostly full in the 1980s and 90s, but saw increasing vacant space in more recent years with the opening of the Tucson Premium Outlets shopping center, some 8 miles to the northeast.
By Garry Boulard
Some forty states have received a financial health grade of C or less due to the growing cost of state employee pensions and retirement healthcare expenses, notes a new report from a Chicago-based think tank.
And those expenses, according to the non-profit Truth in Accounting in its Financial State of the States report, is making it increasingly difficult for states to meet all of their other financial obligations.
Only ten states, according to the report, received a financial health grade of B or above, the vast majority of which were located in the West: Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming.
The states with the greatest debt burdens, defined as “Sinkhole States,” were all located in the East or Midwest: Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
Altogether, the total debt load of all the states topped the $1.5 trillion mark as of the end of fiscal year 2017.
The report gave Arizona an overall financial grade of C, noting that it was taking steps to tackle its debt load, but still had $8.8 billion in unpaid bills.
Colorado received a D for having in excess of $19.3 billion in debts, while New Mexico received the same grade for having $5.1 billion in what the report calls “unfunded retirement obligations that have accumulated over many years.”
The Truth in Accounting group has recommended that states should adopt a method of accounting called Full Accrual Calculations and Techniques, which it says will provide a more realistic basis for budgeting, putting on the books debts as they are incurred.
By Garry Boulard
A modern and large production studio, opened in 2007 in Albuquerque, could be in store for upgrades and renovations as a result of an incentive package approved by the Albuquerque Development Commission.
The facility in question is Albuquerque Studios, which has seen the production of the TV shows Longmire, Better Call Saul, and the first Avengers movie.
That $4.5 million package will give to the Los Gatos, California-based Netflix crucial support for purchasing the studio at 5650 University Boulevard SE.
Netflix, with assets totaling more than $19 billion last year, is also expected to receive up to $10 million in economic development funding through the State of New Mexico for the project.
The company says it wants to purchase the more than 170,000 square foot studio property, which also includes nine sound stages, in order to produce both television shows and motion pictures.
Netflix has previously enjoyed enormous success with its production of the Albuquerque-based series Breaking Bad, broadcast from 2008 to 2013.
In a statement, Ty Warren, vice-president of physical production for Netflix, said “Our experience producing shows and films in New Mexico inspired us to jump at the chance to establish a new production hub here.”
Launched in 1997, Netflix derives most of its revenue as a subscription-based streaming service, offering both movies and television shows. It currently has more than 130 million subscribers worldwide.
The company has said that it will spend up to $2.5 million upgrading the Albuquerque Studios.
The Netflex incentive package is now on its way to the Albuquerque City Council where its prospects appear promising.
By Garry Boulard
Up to $3.5 billion in funding for road and bridge construction and upgrade projects will be made available, depending upon the fate of a statewide initiative that will be decided by Colorado voters in November.
Proposition 109 will allow for a transportation-only delegation of state funding for such projects as the expansion, construction, and maintenance of roads and bridges throughout Colorado.
The proposition is commonly known as the Fix Our Damn Roads Initiative and will authorize bonds to fund transportation projects, with repayment to come from the state’s general fund.
Some 65 projects have been listed as projects that will be funded.
If approved, the proposition would direct the CDOT to borrow up to $3.5 billion by selling transportation revenue bonds. Those bonds would have to be rapid in two decades.
Noting that the Colorado Legislative Council has forecast that the state will be receiving revenues of up to $900 million in state income taxes in the next several years, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers has endorsed the proposition, noting that the legislature would be spending “less than a third of the windfall on building new roads.”
Writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette, Suthers said: “Proposition 109 tells the state to reallocate less than one percent of its massive budget to roads. We all could find one percent of our household budget if we needed to. Do you really believe the state couldn’t do the same?”
The proposition is opposed by several public bodies, including the Summit Board of County Commissioners, which voted this month against the initiative saying it would divert money from public education, health, and other state services.
By Garry Boulard
A series of individual grant programs sponsored by the federal Department of Transportation have provided nearly $64 billion in infrastructure backing this fiscal year.
According to newly released figures from the DOT, that money has come in the form of multi-modal discretionary and formula transportation investments, along with another $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2017 discretionary funds.
The funding has been made available through such DOT initiatives as the BUILD Transportation Discretionary Grant Program, offering around $1.5 billion in funding for transportation programs, more than triple the amount available during the last fiscal year.
The BUILD Transportation grants focus on investments in surface transportation infrastructure, including roads, bridges, rail, transit and ports.
Some $7.6 billion has been invested through the department’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America Program, targeting spending on projects devoted to improving aging infrastructure.
Over $3 billion has gone to airport infrastructure construction and upgrade projects through the Airport Improvement Program, which is designed to maintain and upgrade more than 3,300 airports that are a part of the national airport system.
Additional funding, to the tune of $90 million, has come through the Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grant program, funding pipeline safety projects; and America’s Marine Highway Grants, with $20 million in grants for capital improvements to the country’s small shipyards.
A press release from the DOT said the department remains committed to “revitalizing America’s infrastructure using federal dollars as seed money to encourage additional infrastructure investment by states, localities, and private sector partners.”
By Garry Boulard
A 16,000 square foot building in Albuquerque could see renovations if members of the Bernalillo County Board of Commissions approve up to $25 million in industrial revenue bonds.
Because the name of the company that would be moving into the building has not yet been made public, commissioners are currently simply referring to the matter as “Project Oryx.”
But this much is known: the company, in seeking revenue bond funding, has said moving into a new location would mean that it can hire 139 more people.
If commissioners approve the project, the company would receive a tax abatement of up to $1.5 million.
The commissioners did approve publishing a Notice of Intent to adopt an ordinance under the Local Economic Development Act getting the industrial revenue bond process underway.
In securing the bonds, the company’s property would be transferred to Bernalillo County. The bonds would then allow the company to pay for things like paying for facility upgrades and improvements.
Companies securing such bonds typically use them as capital for such things as land acquisition, construction, and development costs, among other things
It is expected that the commission will officially vote on the revenue bonds question at their regular meeting on November 13. The name of the company in question, as well as other details regarding the project, will probably be revealed in early November.
Companies applying for industrial revenue bonds with the county are typically required to pay a fee of one-tenth of one percent of the amount being borrowed. That amount, according to county regulations, is never less than $5,000.
Last month, the commission voted to approve $10 million in such bonds for Sawmill Bellamah Properties, allowing the company to build a new shopping and dining market in Albuquerque’s Sawmill District.
By Garry Boulard
The Western-most outreach of the internationally known Andersen Corporation could see construction beginning on a 546,000 square foot facility early next year.
“We’re very excited about this,” says Eliza Chlebeck, corporate communications manager for Andersen, adding “a lot of work and planning has taken place to get us to this point.”
The modern production plant, which will be a part of larger planned campus, will go up on nearly 70 acres at the intersection of S. Cotton Lane and W. Commerce Drive in the city of Goodyear and will focus on the company’s increasingly popular Fibrex line of replacement windows.
The facility will be built inside the Goodyear Crossing Industrial Park.
With an estimated capital investment of at least $105 million, the Bayport, Minnesota-based Andersen is making its first foray into the West.
Appearing before the Goodyear City Council in September, Ben Adamson, the senior director of supply chain integration at Andersen, said the company was “excited and energized to join this community as we embark upon this big endeavor for us, which is to expand our manufacturing and distributive capacity.”
“This is a location that makes sense for Andersen in so many ways,” says Chris Comacho, the president and chief executive officer of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, which worked with a host of other state and local agencies to secure the Andersen move.
“Andersen is a very high-value company,” continues Comacho, “and any company that wants to invest this level of capital, $100 million and more, hiring almost 500 people, is the kind of project we embrace.”
Launched more than a century ago, Andersen as of 2016 was enjoying sales of more than $2.5 billion, providing a wide variety of windows and doors for both residential and commercial use.
More than two decades ago, the company revealed to the world Fibrex, a material that is made of thermoplastic polymer and wood fiber, both of which are either totally or partially reclaimed from Andersen manufacturing operations.
Fibrex is now used in all of the company’s Renewal by Andersen Division and its 100 Series windows and doors.
The products that will be made in the new Arizona plant will be in the Fibrex line.
“Andersen is known for its quality, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly products,” noted Georgia Lord, the Mayor of Goodyear, in a statement welcoming the company to her city.
Lord also lauded Andersen’s “commitment to exemplary ethics in dealing with customers and communities.”
“We are excited to have Andersen become part of the major corporate presence in Goodyear,” added Lord, who had earlier joked in a council meeting that if there was another company that made windows besides Andersen, she wasn’t sure who they were.
The company’s ethics is also evidenced in its philanthropic activities, which have so far seen it donate more than $50 million to various community, social, and support groups.
Representing all of the municipal entities in the larger Phoenix metro area, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council conducted due diligence for Andersen as it considered opening a site in Arizona, analyzing such things as the local labor market, tax climate, and how long it takes to obtain building permits.
“We have twenty-three cites in the Metro Phoenix region, and we have them all unified into one delivery system so that when a company wants to move here and needs us to analyze a building or landsite, we operate as one,” explains Comacho.
“And that’s really how we see our job,” he continues. “We’re trying to create a cohesive value proposition for these different industries.”
As planned, the new Andersen presence in Arizona, which will be owned and operated by Andersen Regional Manufacturing, a subsidiary of the larger corporation, will go up on currently vacant land that could see an expansion of the planned campus later.
“It’s just one building as of now,” says Chlebeck, who adds that the company “anticipates operations to begin there in the middle of 2020.”
Additional construction with an estimated price tag of around $95 million could be seen sometime in the next 6 years.
Besides its 2.8 million square foot presence in Bayport, Andersen currently has more than a dozen other manufacturing locations in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Georgia, and Texas.
Earlier this year, the company announced it was expanding its Bayport campus, spending $40 million and adding 15,000 square feet to an existing warehouse on the north end of that site, and another 45,000 square feet on the south side.
By Garry Boulard
Preliminary construction could begin later this year or early 2019 on a Santa Fe project that will see the construction of a new 40-acre subdivision.
Set to go up around 2 miles to the northeast of downtown Santa Fe, Estancias del Norte will include more than forty homes, at least ten of which will be classified as affordable.
The project, whose official address is 702 Hyde Park Road, has attracted the opposition of area residents, including the Greater Callecita Neighborhood Association.
Because the development will be built on steep terrain located to the north of Hyde Park Road, residents with homes at lower levels have expressed concerns regarding erosion and water runoff issues.
But the developer, Ernie Romero, the president of the Santa Fe-based Phase One Realty, has said that he has addressed those concerns with a promise of building infrastructure designed to mitigate any storm water runoff.
The project, which earlier this year won the approval of the Santa Fe Planning Commission, has now also received a green light from the Santa Fe City Council.
By Garry Boulard
With the idea of making quick food and beverage purchases as convenient as possible, the Amazon Corporation has announced a plan to build up to 3,000 new outlets for its unusual Amazon GO stores.
Those stores, the first of which opened in January in Seattle, are introducing a new concept in shopping. Customers scan a code into their smart phone apps before entering the stores, and take what they want from the store’s shelves.
Although there are some employees on site in the stores, there are no cash registers or people working those registers.
Instead cameras and shelf weights determine what has been taken from the store, with the cost of the item in question being automatically charged to a customer’s account.
The Seattle-based company has introduced the Amazon GO concept in Chicago, and say that it is on track to building and opening a total of ten such stores by the end of this year.
So far those stores, measuring anywhere from 1,400 square feet to 2,100 square feet, have been carved out of existing retail space. But the company, with plans of opening fifty more new stores next year, may actually see the construction of new buildings to house those stores.
The company says Amazon GO offerings will typically include sandwiches, salads, and beverages.
Although hardly any of the planned locations for the new stores have been announced, Amazon officials have said that they are targeting urban locations where there are a large number of younger consumers.
The company’s Amazon GO strategy is following on the footsteps of its $14 billion purchase in 2017 of the Whole Foods chain, Amazon’s first foray into bricks and mortar retailing.
By Garry Boulard
A rapidly growing public charter school organization has announced plans to build nearly two dozen campuses in metro El Paso during the next 5 years.
IDEA Public Schools, based in Weslaco, Texas, already has a network of 79 schools throughout the Lone Star State.
But the organization, which places an emphasis on pre-college preparedness learning for its mostly lower-income Hispanic students, is actively making plans for expanding throughout El Paso, as well as building locations in Florida and New Mexico.
Because the schools are public, there is no tuition. Students are selected based on the results of a lottery.
The group’s high schools have been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the best such facilities in the country.
So far, IDEA has raised more than $250 million from a variety of sources for its operational and facility expansion efforts, as well as $67 million from the federal Department of Education.
The group has said it is upping its fund-raising target to around $350 million.
Expansion plans within Texas include the building of a new school at 405 Wallenberg Drive on the growing west side of El Paso.
A separate campus at 15101 Edgemere Boulevard will be completed in two phases and is expected to cost around $30 million to build. That facility is slated to be open by the fall of 2019.
IDEA is also renovating and updating a building near downtown El Paso that will house its local administrative offices.
Focusing on pre-K to 12th grade, IDEA schools currently have an enrollment of more than 45,000 students.
By Garry Boulard
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