New concepts announced for Central’s pedestrian-friendly facelift

By May Ortega/ Reporter/Albuquerque Business First

There are plans underway to redesign and redevelop Central Avenue to make it more attractive for locals and tourists alike.

There have been nearly 500 building permits issued along key parts of Central Avenue in the past year. Those areas make up what is known as the Innovation Corridor or the Central Avenue Corridor.

The corridor — five-eighths of a mile from Central Avenue between Unser Boulevard SW and Tramway Boulevard SE — includes the University of New Mexico’s central campus, Nob Hill and Downtown. It will also be the home of Innovate ABQ and the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.

Other changes are planned for the area as well, most of them in hopes that they will increase pedestrian traffic and tourism. Dozens of new crosswalks along Central and miles of new bike lanes, proposed by the Greater Central Avenue coalition, are among the suggestions.

The group was formed through efforts by the city’s Economic Development Department, the city council and other entities. The GCA released a variety of new renderings, each one depicting suggested changes along Central.

“These are concepts to get us all thinking,” Albuquerque City Council president Isaac Benton said in the CGA’s announcement of the new suggestions. “These are not final plans. What happens next depends on us.”

There are proposals to make the streets on and around Central more “complete” by adding pedestrian-friendly features and (lots of) trees as well as improving transit travel — all without hindering regular traffic.

Transforming surrounding neighborhoods is a large part of the project. That includes combating a “highway feel” in some of these areas, such as Coors and the International District at the east end of the corridor. Nob Hill has also been identified as a prime location for upgrades in pedestrian amenities, including the addition of 25 crosswalks.

Reducing accidents by turning the five-way intersection of Girard Boulevard and Central Avenue into a four-way. The proposal reported that there were 99 crashes there from 2010-2013. It is suggested that accidents and congestion will decrease if the intersection is changed.

There is a proposal to turn the fairgrounds into an open space. The surrounding areas, the GCA said, could be transformed so residents can grow their own food and so new incubators and similar businesses can open shop.

Mayor Richard Berry recently told Albuquerque Business First people have been buying buildings along ART’s route before the project ever broke ground. That population has remained steady, with nearly 490 permits with a valuation of nearly $90.5 million being issued in the last year. Almost $17 million worth of those have been issued in the last month.

These suggestions make up the second step in a four-stage process to make the Greater Central Corridor a reality. Review and feedback are next, scheduled for the spring and summer of this year. The final step — action — is planned for the winter.

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