Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Governor Asking for Your Ideas

from the Albuquerque Journal

Got Any Ideas for Expo? Speak Up!
AlbuquerqueJournal-->By Jeff JonesJournal Staff Writer

Gov. Bill Richardson, who envisions a dramatic revamp of the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque, wants to know what developers, businesses, architects and anyone else who's interested have in mind.

The options, including moving the fairgrounds elsewhere, seem to be wide open.

The state on Monday issued a written “request for information” on ideas for the future of the 237-acre Expo New Mexico grounds on Central Avenue. And the state is continuing to explore a public-private partnership to make big changes on the valuable chunk of central Albuquerque real estate.

Richardson earlier this year made headlines when he announced the partnership possibility and tossed out the idea of replacing the aging Tingley Coliseum and the Downs at Albuquerque horse track with a new “world-class” exhibit center.

Some of the other possibilities in the new request for information are also likely to spark conversation.

“Expo New Mexico grounds are large enough and located in an area that lends itself to any number of possible uses, including but by no means limited to a year-round theme park, commercial, residential and/or retail development, an equestrian center, land leases, a state office campus for the Albuquerque area, expansion of the flea market, etc.,” the request says.

The request also says the state is seeking ideas for keeping the fair “as an integral part of the new development” as well as a “development with the state fair moved to an alternate location.”

The potential exhibit center, convention facilities, green space and “destination retail” are also mentioned in the request.

The request for ideas is not a formal request seeking bids on an Expo revamp, and the state is not paying anything for the ideas it generates — though Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the ideas could eventually be incorporated into a bid request.

A meeting for anyone wishing to give their two cents' worth is set to take place 10 a.m. July 18 on the Expo grounds, and responses must be submitted to the state by Aug. 15.

“If there's something we need from the Legislature, we'd like to get it to them by the next session,” Gallegos said of the potential state involvement in an Expo makeover.

Richardson in May announced that he had directed state Finance Secretary Katherine Miller and Expo General Manager Judith Espinosa to hammer out a proposal for a public-private partnership to revamp the aging fairgrounds, which for years has been a major money pit for repair and maintenance work.

The order came after the state Racing Commission approved a request by the Downs to move its track and casino operations to a new site in Moriarty. At the time, Gallegos said moving the track would strip about $2 million a year from Expo's $15.7 million budget.

Gallegos has said Richardson preferred keeping the fair on the Expo grounds, though the new request for information leaves a move elsewhere as one option.

Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez would like to see the fair moved to the developing Mesa del Sol area south of Albuquerque.

It wasn't immediately clear whether a new exhibit center would conflict in any way with Chávez's plans to bring a new arena and hotel project to Downtown Albuquerque, though the new request for information appears to refer to the other project at one point:

It mentions “keeping in mind other similarly planned projects in the Albuquerque metro area.”

A message left for Chávez on Monday afternoon wasn't immediately returned, though one city official has said Richardson appears to be supportive of the Downtown plans.

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