Keller administration changes ‘criteria’ for public-private investments

While Topgolf seeks millions in city funds to build-up in Albuquerque, Mayor Tim Keller is changing the criteria on what types of public-private projects will and won’t be built with future funds.

After recently criticizing the Topgolf deal, Keller’s administration has published its ideas on what it want to see when it comes to public-private investments.

VIEW: Keller administration’s new “criteria for economic development incentives” »

For years, Mayor Richard Berry’s administration leveraged public funds and tax breaks on a lot of building projects the city is now seeing come up.

One of the largest public-private projects under Berry was the “One Central” building at First Street and Central Avenue. The spent more than $17 million on the parking garage at the still under construction building. 

Other projects Berry’s team focused on were the rebuilding of the DeAnza and El Vado motor lodges on Central; incentives for the redevelopment of the Winrock Mall; a planned apartment complex along Central across from Presbyterian Hospital; and the effort to make a new “tallest building” downtown called “Symphony Tower.”

Keller, who scrapped the Symphony Tower project, was clear about his thoughts on the idea of the proposal, telling KRQE News 13 in March, “Usually when the taxpayers put in a lot of money, they get a public amenity in return. Whether it’s a performing arts center or something like that and that connection wasn’t in that proposal.”

Under the Keller administration’s leadership, the city’s Economic Development Department says it’s looking at different options for future economic incentives.

“We’re placing a great emphasis on supporting local,” said Synthia Jaramillo, director of the city’s Economic Development Department.

The department just published what it calls new “criteria” for “economic development incentives.” The document titled, “Real Economic Impact,” takes the city in a different direction, Jaramillio says.

“(Mayor Keller) wants to focus on opportunities that exist and that are going to make a huge impact especially when it comes to job growth,” said Jaramillo.

In an interview with KRQE News 13, Jaramillo emphasized the Keller administration’s hope to increase incentives for existing local, homegrown businesses.

“We have many locally based companies we would like to help scale and support them with our incentives,” said Jaramillo.

KRQE News 13 also asked Albuquerque’s current Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair if there were any projects that Berry’s administration approved that Keller’s administration wouldn’t.

“We don’t like to Monday morning quarterback the previous administration, but, in our view, there has to be the right mix between out of state projects and homegrown companies who are getting incentives,” said Nair.

Nair says the administration is hoping to work with companies that want to partner with Albuquerque in “making our community better.”

“I think the mix you’ll see without administration will be a little more balanced or maybe favoring some of our local folks,” said Nair.

Monday evening, the Albuquerque City Council passed a resolution supporting its “intent” to strike an incentive deal with Topgolf. The incentive package, which has been criticized by Mayor Keller, could go up for a final vote during the council’s next meeting in the week of June 13. 

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