ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Ten days away from closing its doors for good, the Walmart on San Mateo near Central may get a new owner if the City of Albuquerque has its way. City officials now say they’re working with the state to raise money to ultimately buy and redevelop the property from Walmart.
“We saw an opportunity to get ahead instead of waiting on Walmart to walk away. We’re hoping to get ahead by envisioning what could be better and hoping they’d be willing to sell to us when they’re ready,” City Council President Pat Davis said.
In a Tuesday news release about the effort, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s office says the goal is to eventually “repurpose the site to serve local residents.” According to the city, state lawmakers have already secured a collective $2 million in capital outlay funding from the state legislature that could go toward a future acquisition or project on the site. That work is being led by Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Rep. Janelle Anyanonu of Albuquerque.
Walmart announced in early February that it would close the location at 301 San Mateo SE on Mar. 10 because it is “underperforming.” Some community members have expressed concern since the announcement, saying the store serves many lower-income neighbors. The Keller Administration said Tuesday, “with limited grocery options in the area, many use the store as their primary source for healthy food, fresh produce, and other goods.”
Davis calls it a perfect storm of opportunity. “We need housing, we need a grocery store again, we need a pharmacy, we need a place for small business to get started again. All of that can happen in this lot, which could either be the city’s biggest abandoned shopping center lot or it could be our biggest economic development revitalization project in a decade.”
When announcing the store closure on Feb. 8, Walmart acknowledged it owns the property. However, speaking of the site’s future, the company only said “the facility will be re-evaluated for use at a later date.”
While Albuquerque city officials say their efforts are to “help redevelop Walmart,” the company has not expressly indicated that it would be willing to sell the building or the property it is on. It is also unclear how much an acquisition could cost. According to Bernalillo County property records, the site is 17.6 acres and valued at more than $3.5 million.
Regardless, city and state lawmakers say they’re moving forward in an effort to amass funding for whatever could be next. In addition to the $2 million already earmarked by state legislators, the city believes it could also get additional funding for the site acquisition through the proposed Senate Bill 251.
The Mayor’s Office says the bill “would expand the City’s ability to use gross receipts taxes to invest in redevelopment for projects such as the Walmart site.” The bill passed a vote by the Senate Tax, Business, and Transportation Committee last week, but has yet to go to a full vote before either the Senate or the House.
“We’re working hard to bring together community leaders, elected officials, and Walmart to create a path forward for this property so that it can be a community asset and provide critical access to food and other essentials for the International District,” said Mayor Tim Keller in a Tuesday news release. “Investing in a solution that can help fill the void is important and it’s key that it be a community-driven decision on what that ultimately looks like.”