Thursday, October 13, 2011

Readers Take A Stab At Two Of ABQ's Sticky Issues: The Lousy Convention Biz And Fixing Paseo del Norte 

Albuquerque has two enduring problems--a fix for the overwhelmed Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange and the cratering of the city's convention business. Both issues continue to perplex city policy makers and today our readers take a stab at trying to solve them.

The bear market has slapped the convention center business flat on its back. In ABQ, biz at the downtown center has fallen into a crater. Reader James Meiers has some thoughts:

I know you have mentioned it before, there is a much bigger problem with downtown Albuquerque being an attraction for sports, conventions, or anything that requires people to visit downtown for multiple days. There are really only three small to medium-sized hotels in downtown: The Hyatt, the Doubletree, and Hotel Andaluz.

I was in Indianapolis two months ago for a convention that draws somewhere in the area of 100,000 people annually. Disregarding that Indy has built a massive convention center for these crowds, it has really built itself up as a convention destination. The main thing though is that there are between 20 and 30 hotels within 10-15 minutes walking distance to the convention center. Hotels in downtown Indy are practically on top of each other, and many of them are connected through the skywalk to each other and ultimately to the convention center.

I'm not saying that Albuquerque should or could emulate a city like that. It also helps Indy that it is within a day's drive of most of the people in the U.S. and Canada. However, three hotels isn't going to cut it. People mention the Embassy Suites on Lomas, but the fact is that not in any sort of reasonable walking distance to downtown or UNM. Downtown is designed for vehicle traffic with the parking lots east of the convention center, Civic Plaza, and various private lots.

...We don't have the hotels. We don't have the traffic infrastructure. We don't have any actual proof of demand for any sort of increased use in downtown for conventions or other medium to large-scale activities...

Thanks, James. We remember way back in 1972 when controversy erupted over the city's purchase of the downtown land that the convention center today sits on. The land was owned by the family of Senator Pete Domenici, who sat on the then city commission. Forty years later the city is still trying to figure out the convention business here and still hearing plenty of controversy.


Then there's the Paseo del Norte freeway interchange at Interstate-25 in busy north ABQ. The traffic has been piling up there for several years now as the politicos look for a fix that could cost upwards of $350 million. Former city government manage and longtime lobbyist Dan Weaks has some thoughts on how to get relief to fuming drivers:

Joe: If Paseo really needs to be funded, and it does, then the Legislature and local government should do something similar to what legislative and local government leaders did to get North and South Valley water and sewer extensions done in Bernalillo County in the last decade.

The Legislature informally approved a ten year set aside of capital outlay funds that were coupled with local and federal funds. One can say what they want about former House Speaker Raymond Sanchez and Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon, but they got that major project done. And by the way, the city of Rio Rancho and Sandoval County should pony up as well. Their residents are heavy users of Paseo.

Agreed, Dan. We need some bipartisan dealing here. The example of the troubled water and sewer system in the ABQ Valley is a good example of what can be done when we get everyone on the same page--or at least reading from the same book.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

I'm Joe Monahan, reporting to you this week from Florence and Rome, Italy.

We'll be away from this space tomorrow. See you on Monday.

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