ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Home to one of the city’s newer boutique hotels and the city’s first food hall, the Sawmill Neighborhood has also endured nearly 30 years of redevelopment talk. New projects on the horizon are aimed at making better connections in and out of the area.

Over the last few years, the addition of new homes, shops, the Hotel Chaco, the Sawmill Market and an artisan market have helped drawn bigger crowds and more residents into the neighborhood south of I-40 between Rio Grande and 12th Street. Albuquerque City Councilor Isaac Benton represents the Sawmill area, which has emerged out of a former industrial lumber yard.

“I see many achievements,” Benton said of the Sawmill district in a recent interview. “If you think about it, 20 years roughly, a little bit more in the making, that’s actually pretty good progress for how that area has transformed and it’s only been through good planning and an excellent master plan for the land trust.”

Historical city council documents show the Sawmill has been the subject of redevelopment planning since at least 1993. That year, the area’s redevelopment was formalized in a council resolution. In 2005, the city published a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area plan for the Sawmill and Wells Park communities.

2005 Sawmill/Wells Park Community Metropolitan Redevelopment Area Plan

Councilor Benton says one of the biggest catalysts for subsequent developments has been the Arbolera de Vida housing development. The 27-acre development features dozens of homes and townhouses, a community green space, and more.

Benton also acknowledges there’s still a lot of work to do be done through the Sawmill site, especially when looking at the city’s MRA plan. Designs featured in there show plans for far more pedestrian connectivity.

“I would say that what has not been achieved in the MR-plan is pedestrian connectivity and pedestrian safety,” Benton said. “Just because that’s near some industrial area doesn’t mean that shouldn’t be a safe roadway and be still accessible to pedestrians, cyclists and other people, other than semis.”

The city’s 2005 MRA-plan called for a roundabout at 12th and Sawmill, possible open space south of I-40 near the Lowe’s and trails connecting throughout the site among other projects. While those projects are all still technically in the plan, other changes are coming first.

With $300,000 from the state legislature, the city is working toward extending its traffic calming project on 12th Street between Sawmill Road and the railroad tracks. Benton says that project will “fill in sidewalks, provide a buffered bike lane,” continue the existing center turn lane, and further reduce the roadway from four total lanes to two.

On the other side of the Sawmill district, the city has secured more than $1-million to flesh out its “complete streets” project on Rio Grande. That includes money to add medians and pedestrian crossings. One of those crossings would be near the Starbucks on Rio Grande.

“We will have an enhanced pedestrian and cycle crossing at Aspen and Rio Grande someday,” Benton said. “That’s a tricky spot … a big traffic jam there from west-siders at the end of the day.”

The city is also working on a plan to connect another road through the Sawmill district between Rio Grande and I-40. That project would extend Bellamah street through one of the newer developments on site, the “Sawmill Village” apartment and business complex.