Albuquerque 2030 District Gains Traction with MainStreet Partnership

Courtesy Construction Reporter News.

By Tami Brunk

April 22, 2014

Voted one of the “Top 10 Best Cities to Live” in 2009 by U.S. News, in the five years since this designation Albuquerque’s reputation has taken some hits.  First by gaining notoriety as the down-and-out-locale for the hit TV series “Breaking Bad,” and now gaining international acclaim as the poster child for police brutality.

What doesn’t make the national headlines is the quiet but steady momentum toward rebuilding, restoring, and revitalizing Albuquerque from the ground up.  Three intersecting projects: Innovate Albuquerque, Albuquerque’s recent “Living Cities” designation, and development of an Albuquerque 2030 District are laying the foundation for a radical reboot of downtown Albuquerque.

The 2030 District movement was spurred by the 2030 Challenge, issued by Albuquerque native Ed Mazria’s firm, Architecture 2030 in 2006. The firm issued the challenge after identifying the link between climate change and the built environment: specifically, buildings comprise 48% of total U.S. energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHQ) emissions, and 77 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption.

In the eight years following the 2030 Challenge 2030 Districts have formed in Seattle, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Denver, and Pittsburg and over 20 cities across the nation, Albuquerque among them, at various stages of adoption.   District formation involves active participation by building owners to adopt cities to reduce energy useage in existing and new buildings.

Downtown ABQ Mainstreet Board of Directors Vice President and UNM Architecture Departure alum Laurie Tarbell, LEED AP describes what a 2030 District is all about:

“A 2030 District is a voluntary program that will provide downtown property owners and developers an enticing invitation to build new buildings or effectively maintain and remodel existing structures in a forward-looking manner that will reinvigorate the area and attract desirable new occupants.”

Formation of Albuquerque 2030 District

An Albuquerque 2030 District exploratory committee led by AIA architects formed last fall. Despite a slow start, momentum to develop a District is beginning to gain traction as Downtown ABQ Mainstreet recently adopted it as a lead project.  Additionally, the UNM School of Architecture and Planning’s CityLab Studio provided vital on-the-ground research and data collection toward District development last fall semester.

Downtown ABQ MainStreet Support for District

The National 2030 District organization advises implementing an outreach effort targeting 20-30 potentially interested building owners in order to achieve the minimum startup commitment of five founding building owners who will sign the District Charter.

“I’m optimistic that we will find this group of founders Downtown, and then some,” Tarbell says. “We look forward to working together throughout the evolution of this initiative.”

“I believe that Downtown is the ideal place for Albuquerque’s 2030 District to be seeded and that it will be a great catalyst for vital redevelopment here.  It is well-positioned to become a vital innovation hub for the city,” continues Tarbell.

Downtown ABQ MainStreet, a nonprofit founded last year, has a mission “to foster downtown Albuquerque as a vibrant and attractive place to visit, work, shop, eat, walk, bicycle, and live.” Its purpose is to promote and support Downtown’s economic, social and creative vitality.

Laurie Tarbell and her husband Jared, who is an Albuquerque native and co-founder of the social media site Etsy, recently purchased the former Albuquerque Journal building on 7th and Silver and have transformed it into an über green, net energy positive building with a 24 kilowatt solar array, among other features. Tarbell’s fellow members of the MainStreet Board of Directors are equally enthusiastic about the 2030 effort.

“MainStreet is excited to collaborate and support this national initiative on par with such cities as Seattle, Los Angeles, and Denver. It will undoubtedly be a fantastic and important initiative to support in light of the Living Cities grant that Albuquerque just received,” says Zoya LoPata, Project Coordinator for MainStreet.

CityLab Students Provide Baseline Data for District

CityLab, UNM School of Architecture and Planning’s on-the-street studio, engaged a group of students Fall 2013 semester in both data collection and visioning to support development of the Albuquerque 2030 District. Michaele Pride led the studio with assistant instructor and 2030 District Exploratory Committee member Hilary Noll.

investigated the public and private implications of developing an Albuquerque 2030 District,” Noll shared.  “We looked at potential boundaries for the district, and considered what kinds of interventions could be used.  We were able to accomplish a lot of the legwork the Committee didn’t have the time to do.”

CityLab student research, which will be compiled over the coming months into an executive summary, focused on the downtown core.  Students focused on areas of energy, water—in buildings, stormwater, harvesting and re-use, transportation, agriculture and access to food, equity and equality, and economic development opportunities. They also assessed building density and identified unused and underutilized sites.

“CityLab’s contribution was amazing,” says Matt Higgins, member of the 2030 District exploratory committee. “They gathered a lot of baseline research and helped us look at what could happen, asking the question: ‘if we had a blank check and minimal restrictions, what would we do?’ That’s what we want to be reaching for.”

Tarbell points to the factors that support development of a District, including some that were investigated by CityLab students:

“Our downtown has a significant and ever-increasing amount of multi-family housing, a dense diversity of existing commercial buildings of various ages, and a wealth of interspersed empty lots (currently used as surface parking) primed and waiting for sustainable 21st century development.”

Moving Forward

Higgins says efforts to build an Albuquerque 2030 District are gaining momentum.  He is the founder and CEO of Vibrantcy, an Albuquerque-based company focused on energy-analysis.  He feels more hopeful now than at any point in the development process.

“With MainStreet on board, it’s a real game changer for us—having an entity to help us with outreach.  I think this is going to be a really good partnership.”

Though they have not yet gained official signatures from the candidates, Higgins says that with MainStreet’s help, they are close to identifying five primary building owners in the downtown core.

“Our line in the sand now is to say to each other: who’s going to approach which business owner? We’re trying to be concerted in our efforts and find the owners who really want to do this.”

To learn more about Downtown ABQ MainStreet, check out their website here.  For more information on the Albuquerque 2030 District, check out their new website here.

(Original article can be found at http://constructionreporternews.com/2014/04/22/albuquerque-2030-district-gains-traction-with-citylab-downtown-abq-mainstreet-partnerships/)