ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Mayor Tim Keller says the City of Albuquerque is making a bid to purchase the old Gibson Medical Center for the city’s proposed Gateway Center homeless shelter. The announcement came during a Tuesday COVID-19 update, marking the first time the city has formally moved toward acquiring a location for the future single-site homelessness project.
In March, the city’s top choice for a location for the homeless shelter was rejected by the University of New Mexico. Had that site been selected, the city was hoping to build an entirely new facility on the vacant property next to the UNM Cancer Center, near Lomas and I-25.
Following UNM’s decision, the city rebooted plans for the shelter project in May, creating a working group that has since identified key locations and needs for the project. Less than three weeks ago, city told KRQE News 13 it was still exploring areas north of Downtown and the Gibson Medical Center as possible locations.
Tuesday, Keller said the Gibson facility is well-suited for a multi-service homeless services facility. The mayor says the city can utilize the facility within months, rather than the years it could take to build a new facility from scratch.
“The short answer is there’s just a lot of flexibility, it’s why we love this space,” Keller said. “(There’s) a lot of room for partners, and again, that assumes everyone who’s there currently, continuing, including that emergency hospital.”
The Gibson Medical Center is currently under lease by the State of New Mexico, which is using the building as an overflow hospital for COVID-19 patients. According to a lease agreement, the state is expected to lease the facility through April 1, 2021 for $8.6-million. Keller said Tuesday if the city completed purchase of the facility, it would encourage the state to remain in the facility as long as needed.
“This facility is so big, that there are no current tenants or anything that we would want to chance, we want that state facility there, Keller said. “In fact of the smaller reasons why we’re interested in buying it is to keep it there as long as the state wants it there.”
Voters have approved $14-million in bond funds for the project, however, it’s unclear how much of those funds the city might use to purchase the facility. Keller said Tuesday the purchase price of the facility is part of negotiation and couldn’t be discussed publicly.
In a document published by the city earlier this year, staff estimated the facility could be acquired for a purchase price of $7.4 -million. A document provided to state lawmakers in 2017 indicated the Gibson Medical Center could be purchased by the state for $16-million.
The city says its already working to partner with non-profits and other health organizations for the potential project. Family and Community Services Director Carol Ann Pierce says veteran support services will also be utilized due to the location of the old Gibson medical center.
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