Rail Yards fire sparks questions about project’s movement

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Monday’s fire at Albuquerque’s historic downtown Rail Yards has sparked renewed anger over why there’s been nothing done to revitalize the space. Has the project been hopeless from the get-go?

“Twenty-five years of frustration… with not seeing anything happen there,” said Ron Romero of the Barelas Neighborhood. 

Residents in Barelas like Romero are angered and frustrated that for so long, the Rail Yards have not been fixed up. 

The site was purchased by the city 10 years ago for $8 million with the plan of one day building an amphitheater, shops, cafes and even housing at the site.

“Seeing it deteriorate, seeing more and more crime, more and more destruction of the buildings,” said Romero. 

A fire broke out at the historic area Monday, damaging three buildings.  The Albuquerque Fire Department said a person was seen running away from the scene.

Tuesday, KRQE News 13 cameras caught teens sneaking out a hole in the fencing that’s clearly unsecured. So it’s raised many questions, like what’s going on with the project?

“We’re tied up with a developer who we need to work with and talk with and renegotiate with,” said Mayor Tim Keller. 

He said he has a lot of questions for the LA-based developer, Samitaur, and says the fire has rushed more movement. 

“I’m sending our Director of Planning David Campbell out there this week to discuss with them the lack of progress and a path forward that may or may not involve them,” said Keller.  

City Councilor Isaac Benton has also been troubled by the fire. 

“This shows why we’ve gotta get moving,” said Isaac Benton. 

He’s been a driving force behind the Rail Yards succeeding. 

“I honestly thought we’d be further along, without question,” said Benton.  

Although he said there have certainly been delays from the developer, he said the blame can’t all be on them. 

“We’ve got to accelerate the project ourselves as well as find a developer who wants to,” he said. 

The developer was put on notice by the Berry Administration last year. They have been required to provide quarterly updates. The next update will be on Friday at the Albuquerque Development Commission meeting. 

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