Just days after announcing it was moving entirely out of the coal power business, the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association has revealed plans to build a new 200-megawatt solar power plant near Prewitt, New Mexico.
The new plant will go up not far from the existing 253-megawatt Escalante Generating Station, which is coal-powered and also belongs to Tri-State.
The wholesale power supplier plans to shut down the coal plant later this year.
Based in Westminster, Colorado, Tri-State has facilities in both Colorado and New Mexico. On January 9, the company said it was putting out of commission both its coal-fired New Mexico facility as well as its last coal plants and coal mine in Colorado.
In a statement, Rick Gordon, board chairman with Tri-State, said, “Serving our members’ clean energy and affordability needs, supporting state requirements and goals, and leading the fundamental changes in our industry require the retirement of our coal facilities in Colorado and New Mexico.”
As planned, Tri-State’s planned New Mexico solar plant, officially called Escalante Solar, will be the largest of its kind for the company.
Expanding its renewable energy profile, Tri-State will also build five solar projects and two wind projects in Colorado in the next four years.
Tri-State says this across-the-board move to renewable energy comprises the “most transformative change in its 67-year history,” one that will “dramatically and rapidly advance” the company’s clean energy portfolio.
“We want replacement power to be located in the affected communities whenever possible, so we welcome Tri-State’s announcement,” Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, told the Albuquerque Journal.
Remarked Colorado Governor Jared Polis of the Tri-State move: “It’s a bold step to protect the future of the planet and to prepare Colorado to succeed in the future.”
By Garry Boulard
As many as two dozen new Amazon food stores could be built and opened later this year, according to industry sources.
Plans are underway for the construction of what will be the first Amazon grocery store in the country in Woodland Hills, California.
That store is being built inside a former Toys “R” Us outlet measuring 40,000 square feet, with a completion date scheduled for later this spring.
The new grocery stores will be built along the business model of a traditional grocery store, unlike the company’s earlier Amazon Go convenience outlets, which have seen customers using a smartphone app to purchase products, avoiding checkout lines altogether.
The outlets are all expected to measure around 20,000 to 40,000 square feet, but whether they will be built in existing spaces, as is the case with the Woodland Hills store, or in entirely new buildings, remains to be announced.
How successful the Amazon stores will be remains to be seen, The financial website Motley Fool has wondered how interested suppliers will be in signing on with a new chain that has only a limited number of locations.
But the Motley Fool also notes that “Amazon has something of a penchant for building efficient, large-scale operations that disrupt existing relationships.”
The Amazon grocery stores are not to be confused with the online giant’s nearly $14 billion purchase of the Whole Foods grocery chain.
The exact locations of the new Amazon grocery stores have not been disclosed, but it is thought that early outlets will go up in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
Embracing bricks and mortar commerce, Amazon currently has just over two dozen Amazon Go locations either up and running or being built, along with 11 Amazon Books stores, and nearly five hundred Whole Foods locations.
By Garry Boulard
The Boulder City Council has approved an update to its building code allowing for the placing of more tiny homes in the city’s residential areas.
The code update applies to structures measuring less than 400 square feet, restricting such homes to just two on a single property.
The update additionally spells out requirements for such tiny home building features as loft ceiling height, stair geometry, and loft egress windows.
Future tiny homes must also all be attached to a cement foundation, and connected to city utilities.
The new building code will become effective on July 1.
The code update is seen in part as a response to increased apartment rents in Boulder. According to the site rentcafe.com, the average rent today for an 800 square foot apartment in the city is just below $2,000 a month.
By Garry Boulard
In a city that has seen abandoned homes and business spaces vandalized and sometimes set on fire, a move is underway to prosecute the owners of such properties.
The El Paso City Council has approved a measure tasking City Manager Tommy Gonzalez with reviewing new Texas laws giving local authorities increased powers to pursue those owners.
One of those new laws, HB 36, was passed last year by the Texas State Legislature, allowing local officials to act in cases of “prolonged litigation” regarding abandoned properties whose conditions may have worsened during the litigation process.
The council measure as proposed by City Representative Alexsandra Annello asks the City Manager’s office to “develop and implement a recommended action plan to address buildings that are vacant, have substandard conditions, and/or violate ordinances within the city.”
A survey conducted for the city several years ago documented more than one hundred abandoned buildings in just the downtown area alone that were vacant and in various states of disrepair.
Many of those structures are regarded as problematic not just because of their condition, but also because they tend to attract the homeless and vagrants.
A city official said that a strengthened ordinance addressing the issue could also lead to the demolition of many of the most distressed properties.
By Garry Boulard
Despite the challenges of an increasingly tight construction labor market, more hotels are expected to go up in 2020, adding to a stock that has significantly expanded in the last five years.
According to the Henderson, Tennessee-based research firm STR, the number of hotels in construction in just November alone was up by 3.9 percent over the previous November.
The challenge in finding specialized hotel construction workers to take on new projects, contends the news site Skift, can be “traced back to the 2008 recession when hotel companies put the brakes on construction projects, forcing workers to find employment elsewhere.”
There are currently more than 1,700 new hotel projects in the pipeline in North America, with New York seeing the most projects at sixty-three.
Figures crunched in the Tophotelconstruction.com database also show 40 new hotels set for Los Angles, and 37 in metro Atlanta.
Projects in the West include the 1,231-room Sheraton Denver Downtown, which is set to open this summer, and the massive Resort World Las Vegas, with nearly 6,600 rooms, scheduled for completion at the end of this year.
Indicating that the market for new hotel construction in the West may well be expected to expand in the next few years, STR is also reporting that both Phoenix and Denver experienced the highest increases in occupancy nationally in 2019.
By Garry Boulard
Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure has announced plans to build up to 125 miles of new bike lanes in various parts of the city over the next three years.
Those lanes will take on a variety of forms, from being more defined spaces where bike lanes already exist, to entirely new lanes on roads without them.
Funding for the entirety of the initiative is unclear, but at least 50 miles of the new infrastructure will be paid out of $18 million in Elevate Denver Bond Program.
The project will include new signage and striping in an effort to create what the DOT calls “high comfort facilities” for bike riders, separating them as much as possible from vehicular traffic.
In some parts of the city, the effort will also include the building of cement embankments between the bike and car lanes.
In a statement released by the city’s Department of Transportation & Infrastructure, an emphasis was placed on streets with “lower speeds and traffic volumes” that will be designed to “make riding a bike a comfortable option for all ages and abilities.”
The bike lane initiative is one of the first projects to be sponsored by Transportation & Infrastructure Department, which was created last year, moving bike and transit issues out of the city’s Department of Public Works.
According to a recent Downtown Denver Partnership survey, the number of people riding bikes to jobs in the downtown area has increased from around 4 percent seven years ago to 8 percent in 2017.
At the same time, the Denver metro area saw the death of six bicyclists in 2018 from accidents with vehicles, and another four last year.
By Garry Boulard
A long-anticipated project designed for the more than 200,000 people expected to visit Spaceport America annually may soon see construction if state funding can be secured.
Officials with the New Mexico Spaceport Authority are hoping to receive up to $25 million from the New Mexico State Legislature to build a welcome center on its 18,000-acre site adjacent to the White Sands Missile Range.
The Spaceport is additionally asking lawmakers for $20 million to build several space vehicle and payload processing centers, as well as $10 million for the first phase construction of a new taxiway.
An additional request: $2 million to build a modern internet control center. That facility will be used as an anchor for all communications at the sprawling site.
To great fanfare, initial construction of the Spaceport began in the spring of 2006 when it was announced that the massive facility would see the building of Virgin Galactic’s commercial spacecraft designed to provide suborbital spaceflights for space tourists.
In the years since, more than $218 million has been spent building up and developing the Spaceport America site. It is expected that Virgin Galactic may be able to send its first paying customers into space as early as this summer.
By Garry Boulard
The national unemployment rate shrunk to 3.5 percent in both November and December of last year, a significantly lower number than was reported in January of 2019 when the rate stood at 4 percent.
According to a new survey published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate overall has steadily declined since 2010 when it stood at just under 10 percent.
The state with the largest unemployment rate in late 2019 was Alaska at 6.1 percent, followed by Mississippi, the District of Columbia, and West Virginia.
In the West, New Mexico recorded a 4.8 percent employment rate, followed by Arizona at 4.7 percent, and Colorado, coming in below the national average, at 2.6 percent.
Only five states had lower unemployment rates than Colorado: Virginia at 2.6 percent, North Dakota with 2.5 percent, Utah and South Carolina at 2.4 percent, and Vermont at 2.3 percent.
A separate measurement, looking at discouraged and underemployed workers, records an unemployment rate at 6.7 percent, the lowest in more than two decades.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, there were 277,000 discouraged and underemployed workers in December, down by nearly 100,000 from late 2018.
“Discouraged workers,” noted the survey, “are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available to them.”
This category also includes people not looking for work because they believed they lacked the required school or training for a given job, or thought would-be employers regarded them as “too young or too old, and other types of discrimination.”
By Garry Boulard
The closing of the last tenant space at the once very popular Fiesta Mall in Mesa, Arizona is sparking talk regarding the future of the 1 million square foot shopping center.
Dillard’s Clearance Center, an offshoot of the larger Dillard’s chain featuring discounted clothes, announced its exit from the mall last fall.
The chain’s decision to close its store caps a more than decade-long drain of tenants for a mall that once featured more than one hundred small stores and restaurants.
Built at a cost of $55 million and opened in the fall of 1979, the Fiesta Mall at 1445 W. Southern Avenue was for years one of the most successful shopping centers in the southwest.
Analysts trace its decline to the opening of the 1.2 million square foot Arizona Malls in nearby Tempe in 1997.
During the course of the next two decades, the Fiesta Mall saw a number of its largest tenants move out, with less than a third of the center’s retail space rented out by late 2016.
The Phoenix-based Dimension Financial & Realty Investments purchased the property three years ago for $7.7 million and said it would spend up to $30 million transforming the space into a higher education campus.
Although that idea was never executed, city officials have expressed interest in seeing the mall redeveloped as a mix-used site.
But one of the obstacles confronting any repurposing project has been the number of other developers, besides Dimension, owning a portion of the property.
According to reports, as many as five developers have had a stake in the property, a number that has since decreased to two.
That lower number, according to city officials, should make it easier for the City of Mesa to help coordinate a redevelopment of the site.
Notes the Arizona Republic: “The city is waiting to see ‘one unified vision’ - either with one group buying out the other for the sole ownership, or the two collaborating on a joint plan.”
By Garry Boulard
A fundraising campaign is now underway for the construction of an $8 million hospice inpatient facility that will go up on the southside of Fort Collins.
Pathways Hospice says the new facility will have enough room for a dozen beds and will be built on currently vacant property next to the company’s headquarters at 305 Carpenter Road.
Rooms will also be provided for family members staying overnight.
Additional features will include skylights, a spacious lobby, communal kitchen, and chapel.
The new facility is partly in response to demographic forecasts projecting a triple digit increase in area residents over the age of 65 in the next two decades.
In a statement, Nate Lamkin, the president of Pathways, said, “The time to build a stand-alone, inpatient hospice care center is now if we are going to meet the needs of our patients and families going forward.”
The structure will be especially designed to allow for the construction of additional space should it be needed in the future.
Pathways hopes to issue a formal construction request for the project sometime next month.
As proposed, the new facility will be a semi-circular structure, with a courtyard, garden, and patio space to the front and sides of the building.
In business since 1978, Pathways has seen its patient load increase by anywhere from 10 to 15 percent in recent years.
By Garry Boulard
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