ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque is inching closer toward expanding its fire fighting and police presence in the southwest part of the city, but the station could eventually become much more than that. City leaders gathered at the corner of 98th Street and Amole Mesa SW late Thursday morning to celebrate the start of the first phase of a new Southwest Public Safety Center.

Sometime later this year, construction crews are expected to begin building a new Fire Station 23 at the site, which the city purchased last year. Phase one of the project is fully funded, according to the city, and groundbreaking should occur in the next six to nine months.

However, Mayor Keller said Thursday that eventually, the city hopes to build a transit center and “perhaps a community” center at the SW Public Safety Center site. The broader uses of the site were highlighted during Thursday’s news conference as the Mayor declared the area as one of the fastest growing, newer and denser areas of Albuquerque that remains underserved.

“We’ll see,” Keller said. “In six-acres, we can have a full robust campus with multiple services for the community out here, services, number one, that should already be out here, I want to acknowledge that.”

Once complete, the city expects the first leg of the project, the new fire station to help Albuquerque Fire Rescue reach all member of the community in “four members or less” for emergency calls. The new station will be the first additional fire station for AFR in more than 15-years, according to AFR Chief Gene Gallegos. It’s expected to serve more than 27,000 people with 30 additional firefighter-paramedics once it opens.

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“We’re behind,” said Mayor Tim Keller, speaking of the new center during Thursday’s news conference. “This area, like so many areas that have been underserved, so many communities of color, has been underserved by the City of Albuquerque and we’re trying to reverse that, especially with public safety.”

Eventually, the city says it will co-locate a police presence directly next to the upcoming fire station. Albuquerque city leaders are requesting $10 million from the state legislature to help build the police-side of the project. Today, APD’s southwest substation is roughly five-miles from the SW Public Safety Center property, at Coors and Fortuna.