ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It was a problem property nearly two decades ago. For years, ever since the city cleared it out, the lot near Central and Louisiana has been empty. Now, the city is trying to do something with it again to help breathe new life into the area.
When the city tore down a problem property at 7200 Central Avenue in 2004, it had been a problem bar called the Blue Spruce Lounge. That bar had been the site of a rape and a suspicious death that year. At the time, community members had high hopes for the future of this property.
“Look at this place as something that could be a miniature trip to faraway places,” said community advocate Connie Alexander at the time. However, that dream hasn’t panned out.
“It’s been a vacant lot for more than a decade,” said Terry Brunner, director of the city’s Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency, “We made an attempt about a decade ago to build some housing there, and we didn’t really get any proposals that we felt fit.”
Now, the city is trying again. Earlier this summer, it put out a call to developers to propose some plans for the spot. The hope is to finally transform this vacant lot into somewhere where people can live, and Brunner said they want 30 or more housing units there. Developers also have the option of putting something commercial there, too.
When asked whether they were concerned people would want to live on that lot given continuing problems with homelessness in that area of the International District, Brunner said: “Usually, the key to bringing back a neighborhood is getting people to live there and getting more people not only living there but working there; going to the new public library we have down the street. So, bringing these amenities in, housing, and restaurants, and things to do, really helps prevent crime and give people opportunities to turn it more into really a neighborhood feel.”
When asked why the lot had been left vacant for so long, Brunner said it’s not easy to get people to want to build on them.
“It’s surprisingly hard to get people to come and develop properties, even with the incentives we offer,” Brunner explained, “We’re trying to get better at it. We’re trying to be faster to improve the city at a quicker rate, but it does take a lot of work to get a vacant lot back into use.”
Developers have until Thursday to submit their proposals. If all goes to plan, Brunner expects the turnaround to be quick. “Optimistically, it should take a year or two.”
The site is about an acre; in 2004, the city bought the building that was on that lot for $1.5 million. The city said they are going to make it available at ‘fair market value.’