Work could begin next summer on the building of a 33,000 square-foot structure that will house a community center for residents living on the southwest side of Albuquerque.
As currently planned, the project will go up in four phases, with the first phase measuring around 15,000 square feet, and including the construction of office space, a lobby, a fitness room, activity rooms, and outdoor courtyard.
The project, which has also been the subject of at least one community input meeting, is also slated to include outdoor adjacent practice fields.
City officials have long been interested in having a new community center to accommodate the west side’s growing population.
The Westgate Community Center, which will be partially paid for through local general obligation bonds, will go up near the intersection of Snow Vista Trail and De Vargas Road SW, seven miles to the southwest of downtown Albuquerque.
The project is being designed by the Albuquerque-based Lee Gamelsky Architects, which specializes in educational, performing arts, and cultural facilities work.
Future phase work is expected to see the construction of meeting rooms and classrooms, along with a 9,000 square-foot gymnasium.
The project still needs to be reviewed by city officials, including the Environmental Planning Commission.
By Garry Boulard
The country is currently confronted with an estimated $90 billion in public transit infrastructure needs.
And that’s the good news.
According to a report just issued by the Washington-based American Public Transportation Association, those unmet public rail and bus infrastructure needs have led to a loss of $340 billion in U.S. business revenue.
That’s because a lack of public transit or delayed commutes due to infrastructure issues negatively impacts the number of people who need such transportation to get to work, as well as businesses whose customers also use those same systems.
The report, The Economic Cost of Failing to Modernize Public Transportation, was conducted by the Economic Development Research Group of Boston, and says that nearly 40 percent of the nation’s rail transit stations, and over 35 percent of its dedicated right of ways are classified as being in poor condition.
The numbers were a little more positive when it comes to bus infrastructure, according to the report, with 12 percent of stations and 6 percent of right of ways thought to be in poor condition.
The declining condition of the nation’s transit infrastructure comes during a time when such systems are experiencing increased ridership, particularly in urban areas of the country experiencing rapid population growth.
But, according to Paul Skoutelas, the president of the APTA, one of the most effective ways to address aging public transit infrastructure is through the continued Congressional funding of the Highway Trust Fund, which draws its support from federal fuel taxes.
Calling on both the Trump Administration and Congress to address the solvency of that fund, Skoutelas, in a statement accompanying the report, said, “This will provide predictable, multi-year funding to not only address America’s deteriorating infrastructure, but provide for continued investment to help grow the nation’s economy.”
By Garry Boulard
The first step towards an ambitious upgrading and renovation project at the Central Library in downtown Denver is about to be taken with the announcement of $4 million in general obligation funding for the design part of that work.
That project is one of several systemwide library projects getting bond money.
The popular and well-used Central Library at 10 W. 14th Avenue Parkway sees up to 2,600 patrons a day.
But, according to library officials, partly because of the building’s heavy traffic, the facility has long been in need of such basic work as upgrading its escalators, elevators, and HVAC system.
Now some $5.3 million in bond funding will go for the design of the Central Library’s renovation project, while upwards of $341,000 will pay for design work at the Blair Caldwell African-American Research Library at 2401 Welton Street, on the northeast side of city.
In addition, $174,000 in general obligation funding will target renovation design work at the Byers Branch Library at 675 Santa Fe Drive on the south side of Denver; and $184,000 for the same purposes at the Smiley Branch Library on the city’s north end at 4501 W. 46th Avenue.
The funding for the various library projects is coming out of the first round of $937 million general obligation bonds approved by Denver voters last November.
By Garry Boulard
Funding of just over $8 million in general obligation bonds have been secured for a variety of transportation projects throughout Bernalillo County.
Those bonds are a part of a larger $36.3 million package approved by county voters in November of 2016.
That package ultimately allotted $12.6 million in transportation funding for the design, construction, and repair of roads and all related non-motor pathways in the county.
Members of the Bernalillo County Commission have now given their approval to publishing a notice of intent for the issuance of bonds not to exceed $16 million.
Those bonds will also provide $850,000 for county public building projects, which could include the construction of a new fire station and animal shelter, as well as Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant upgrades.
Parks and recreation projects pertaining to ball field upgrades and additional ADA work will get $1.8 million in bond funding.
Proceeds from the sale of the bonds are expected to be available sometime in August.
By Garry Boulard
Despite the strong support of President Trump, the future of a sweeping federal infrastructure bill appears to be in doubt due to a lack of Congressional support.
In February, Trump urged Congress to pass a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan designed to fund highway, airport and port facility upgrades over a ten-year period.
But the proposal, which broke with traditional transportation funding approaches by calling for a greater use of private capital, has not seen significant movement on Capitol Hill.
“We’re going to continue to look at ways to improve the nation’s infrastructure,” remarked White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
But Sanders added that “in terms of a specific piece of legislation, I’m not aware that that will happen by the end of the year.”
The Trump proposal called for $200 billion in direct federal funding, out of which $100 billion could be drawn upon for a state and local government incentives program, with an additional $50 billion going for block grants to governors.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, in remarks kicking off annual Infrastructure Week events in Washington, said the administration was still behind the bill, despite the criticism of some members of Congress regarding, in particular, the private funding mechanism.
“We’re not used to tapping the private sector for public infrastructure,” said Chao, “and that’s really ironic, given that we have the biggest capital market of any place in the world.”
By Garry Boulard
Plans for what will be one of the tallest buildings in the history of El Paso have now won crucial financial support in the form of incentives from both the El Paso City Council and the El Paso County Commission.
The West Star Tower, slated to go up on a full city block at 601 N. Mesa in downtown El Paso, is receiving up to $3.5 million in tax rebates from the City of El Paso and $2.9 in tax incentives from the county.
The project, proposed by the El Paso-based Hunt Companies, working in a partnership with West Star Bank, was originally envisioned as a 14-story building.
But now, the developers say that the sleek glass-encased tower will top off at 18 floors, housing at least 200,000 square feet of Class A office and retail space.
Both the Hunt Companies and West Star will occupy office space in the tower, with West Star also opening a commercial banking outlet on the ground floor.
Additional plans call for the creation of a parklike green space adjacent to the tower, which will be accessible to the public.
Construction on the big project could start later this year or early 2019, with an early 2020 completion date.
Hunt purchased the 601 N. Mesa site in the fall of 2014 and subsequently demolished a BBVA Compass Bank outlet there.
Through the decades, the property has been used for many commercial purposes, and was, in the 1950s, the home of an El Paso Dixie gas station.
By Garry Boulard
Voters in Aspen, Colorado may get the final say on a plan to build a 37,500 square-foot building designed to consolidate that city’s administrative offices.
City leaders have said that they want to renovate office space in the existing Aspen City Hall at 130 S. Galena Street, inside the historic 1890s Armory Building, while putting up an entirely new two-story structure elsewhere.
That new building will uniquely be an expansion of an existing structure at 425 Rio Grande Place, adding 15,000 square feet of lobby and storage space, along with 15,000 square feet of new office space, and meeting space measuring almost 4,000 square feet.
But the combined $22 million expansion and renovation project has been challenged in the Ninth Judicial District Court in a citizen-initiated lawsuit filed last spring contending that the voters of Aspen should have had a say in the matter through the means of a referendum.
Earlier this year, Judge John Neiley agreed that Aspen’s plans for the expansion and upgrading of the building at 425 Rio Grande Place was indeed subject to a citizen referendum.
The Judge also allowed Aspen residents Steven Goldenberg and Marcia Goshorn to collect a minimum of 640 names on a petition calling for that referendum.
Although more than 700 signatures were eventually submitted, the Aspen City Clerk’s office determined that some 146 of those names were invalid because certain required information accompanying those signatures was omitted.
The City of Aspen has now moved to put the matter to an end, filing suit, also in the Ninth District Court, asking that the petition be ruled as inadmissible because it falls short of the required number of signatures.
It is not known when Neiley will make a ruling on this latest petition in the ongoing battle. Aspen officials, perhaps because of the negative publicity that has resulted from the legal challenge, have indicated that if the project ends up as a ballot question, it will most likely be defeated.
By Garry Boulard
For the first time since late 2000, the nation’s unemployment level has fallen to 3.9 percent, a benchmark recorded in the U.S. Department of Labor’s just-released April 2018 Employment Situation report.
That report also reveals that starting in the fall of 2016, overall labor force participation among those between 25 and 54 years of age is now at 82.0 percent, up from 81.3 percent in 2016.
While that percentage gain may seem small, in real numbers, according to the Labor Department, it means that more than 900,000 people have found work during that time period.
In a statement, Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Labor, declared “This is a great time to be a job seeker in America.”
Acosta also noted that 164,000 new jobs were added last month, “including gains in goods-producing industries such as manufacturing, mining and logging, and construction.” Both African-American and Hispanic American unemployment rates, added Acosta, “are at the lowest level ever recorded.”
Two trouble spots revealed in the report: the number of longterm unemployed, or those without jobs for more than two years, remains little changed at 1.3 million nationally.
And the number, more than 400,000, among those classified as “discouraged workers,” which has shown little improvement in the last year.
“Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them,” the report said.
By Garry Boulard
In a city that has seen its population jump by nearly 100,000 residents in the last two decades, the need for expanded fire and police department services is an ongoing topic of discussion.
Now city leaders in Mesa, Arizona are taking steps that could lead to the construction of a new district police station and two new fire stations.
One of those fire stations, to be called Station Number 221, would go up in Mesa’s rapidly growing Eastmark neighborhood, a part of the city that has seen more than one thousand new homes built in the last two years alone.
The other facility, Station Number 222, would be slated for construction on the northeast side of Mesa. The proposed new district police station would go up on Mesa’s east side.
The estimated cost to build the three facilities is at least $85 million.
Now the third largest city in Arizona, Mesa has twenty fire stations of various sizes spotted throughout the city, and one main police station, along with four district stations.
Mayor John Giles, noting the large number of people moving into the Eastmark neighborhood, is urging members of the Mesa City Council to consider putting on this November’s ballot a public safety bond that would fund the construction of all three of the proposed facilities.
Council members, who have indicated that they agree with the need for the three facilities, are expected to make a decision on calling for that public safety bond election within the month.
By Garry Boulard
Opened in 1979, the Helen Bonfills Theater Complex in downtown Denver is actually a combination of four performing art spaces given over to Broadway shows, independent films, and Shakespearean productions.
Now, one of those spaces, officially called The Stage, is slated for extensive upgrading that will see the construction of a new observation booth, and the renovation of dressing rooms, green rooms, and storage space.
The project, to be funded by some $6 million in Denver General Obligation Funds approved by voters last November, is among an initial list of transportation, medical facility, library, park, and cultural institution projects that those bonds will pay for.
Altogether, individual projects with a combined price tag of $193 million have now been announced by the City of Denver’s Public Works Department. That list is now on its way to the Denver City Council for final approval.
With a lobby distinguished by its glass walls and roof, the Bonfills facility has been described by the New York Times as “one of the most remarkable performing art centers any American city of any size has managed to construct.”
By Garry Boulard
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