Business Section

Friday  - September 24th, 1999

Editorial - No Need To Fight Over Building Rescue

¡ Front Page

Condemnation Stay Sought

But perhaps the people who invested so much volunteer time and emotional capital in the project became more committed to the effort than to what should have been the goal: rehabilitating a skid-row bum and returning him to a proud, productive place in society.
While the Nob Hill Highland Renaissance Corp. effort was gaining momentum, the building's owners continued marketing the building. The rising economic tide in Nob Hill brought them several offers, including one from a neighboring brew pub-restaurant that needed room to grow. Prospective owners would, like the neighborhood development group, restore the building. Unlike the county, private ownership would also restore it as a contributor
to property and gross receipts tax rolls.
From the owners' perspective, the private offers also
were preferable in terms of being firm and able to close within a reasonable time frame. The county was in no hurry to buy. But after Kelly's Brewing signed a contract to buy the Jones building for $850,000, Rutherford and other county officials were in a hurry to intimidate the buyer or scotch a deal much better than it offered.
The county is adamant that it will, in its own good time, follow through on acquiring the building, by condemnation if necessary. It justifies seizure of private property by saying it must keep faith

A Business Outlook story last October chronicled good news about grass-roots efforts to rescue the derelict Jones Motor Co. building in the Nob Hill area.
Built as a Ford dealership out on the sprawling edge of prewar Albuquerque, the building is a fine example of Streamline Moderne architecture and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also an example of a good building fallen on hard times.
Since its heyday as a dealership, it has rattled down the food chain of commerce to low-grossing, low-rent uses such as secondhand and surplus stores. During a 1995 rave, the crowd painted the walls with graffiti and broke the windows.
But where some saw demolition-bait, neighborhood activists saw the rounded front reglazed, graffiti stuccoed over and patrons intent, not on destruction, but on coming to the landmark to create.
A Nob Hill area resident who worked in the city's Public Arts Program, Sherri Brueggemann, envisioned the old dealership as an art-oriented, local-government operated cultural center. And she and others in the area saw a neighborhood development corporation as the means to spearhead the effort. Bernalillo  County Commissioner Tom Rutherford herded an $800,000 financing measure into a $3.37 million bond issue for parks and recreation facilities on the 1998 ballot. Area legislators lined up participation from the state.

with the voters.
That's one interpretation of the vote on a bond issue involving $800,000 for a community center and more than $2.5 million for other parks and recreation projects, an area of capital expenditure voters tend to be generous with. One could as easily argue that the electorate supported government financing to rescue a building no one else was interested in buying and restoring. That's the basis on which the Journal endorsed the project.
The point is, government is not the only mechanism for rehabilitation of a landmark. Government should not be the preferred mechanism, if there are, as in this case, private alternatives.
The frustration of neighborhood people and their government allies, whose excellent intentions and work fell short of fruition, should not obscure the good news: The Jones Motor Building is on the road back after taking an unexpected turn.
The best news of all would be if the Nob Hill Highland Renaissance Corp. and the county turn their attention, energies and funds to other distressed properties, further rehabilitating the area.