Wednesday, July 12, 2006

North 4th Street Corridor Study - Public Comments Needed

A draft of the City's 4th Street Corridor Study has been published. This study, which came about primarily due to the Coalition's efforts and through the persistence of Councilor Debbie O'Malley, may be downloaded and viewed at http://www.cabq.gov/council/N4thStreetPlan.html.

The Environmental Planning Commission will hold its first hearing of the North 4th Street Plan on Thursday, July 13th, at 7pm in the Plaza del Sol hearing room at 600 2nd Street NW in downtown Albuquerque. Each person will have 2 minutes to make their comments on the plan. The Coalition has submitted written comments to the EPC in a letter dated July 11, 2006. The text of that letter follows:

July 11, 2006

Environmental Planning Commission
City of AlbuquerquePlanning Department
600 2nd St. NW Albuquerque, NM 87103

Re: North 4th Street Redevelopment Study: Rank III Corridor Plan
Review Draft – June 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The 4th Street & Montaño Area Improvement Coalition is happy to provide the following comments to the North 4th Street Redevelopment Study: Rank III Corridor Plan, Review Draft – June 2006 (the “Study”).

About the Coalition

Our Coalition was formed in 2003 by a group of concerned neighbors and business owners in the area bounded by Douglas MacArthur Road to the south, Solar Road to the north, 2nd Street to the east, and Los Poblanos Open Space to the west. In 2004 we held two “visioning workshops” which resulted in a Visioning Report for our area. The four goals articulated by our community are: (1) Traffic: Safe Vehicular Flow and Improved Transit; (2) Identity: Rural/Urban Character Preserved; (3) Pathways: Improved Pathways with Pedestrian, Bicycle and Equestrian Amenities; and (4) Revitalization: Commercial and Community Design & Development. Our Visioning Report may be viewed at (http://www.cabq.gov/council/communityvisioningreport.html.

As the first priority in our list of goals, our Coalition believes that the revitalization of 4th Street is essential to achieving our Vision. Because we were instrumental in obtaining support for the Study, we are happy to offer the following comments.

General Comments

§ The section of 4th Street described in the Study is approximately 4.3 miles in length. As such, this study was extremely ambitious. Planning Department Staff and the Consultant Team have done a good job of identifying the various “Character Zones” that exist along 4th Street.
§ With its dual historic designation (as part of El Camino Real and the pre-1937 Route 66), 4th Street has always played an important role in commerce. Unfortunately, its present condition reflects years of neglect and lack of planning. The Study correctly identifies the significant level of investment that will be required to revitalize 4th Street; however, the Study does not capture the long-term economic benefits (such as blight prevention, the increase in gross receipts revenue for the City, etc.) that will result from restoring 4th Street to its role as an area of significant commercial and residential activity.
§ The City’s Transit Department has identified 4th Street as a Major Transit Corridor. The roadway alignments presented in the Study may not fully account for this important use of 4th Street (see additional comment on the intersection of 4th & Montaño under Character Zones 4 and 5 below).
§ On page 4-56, the Study makes the assertion – without substantiation – that “If the entire distance of North Fourth Street were converted to two lanes of moving traffic . . . [it] would threaten the business viability of the street.” There are many examples throughout the country of roadways where lane reductions have actually led to much greater business activity. At a minimum, we believe the Study should have included examples of communities in which lane reduction and/or lane reconfiguration were successful, the reasons why these communities were successful, and an explanation of why such changes would be inappropriate for 4th Street.
§ Some of the maps in the Study are inconsistent and therefore confusing (see, e.g., the difference in zoning indicated on pages 4-25 and 4-26).

Character Zones 4 and 5

§ We fully support the proposed consolidation of eating areas in Zone 4 and the restriction on allowing any additional drive-through establishments in these Zones.
§ The Study correctly identifies the intersection at 4th Street & Montaño as “one of the most critical locations in the corridor” (page 4 -66). In our view, this critical intersection is not given adequate attention. The Study correctly recommends that the City not add additional turn lanes at this intersection (page 4 -70, item 10). Ironically (and sadly) those additional turn lanes currently are under construction and will undoubtedly undermine efforts to improve walkability and meaningful commercial activity within Zone 5.
§ Given the desirability to improve transit throughout the Study area as well as (i) the significant roles that can be played by 4th Street and by Montaño Road in moving people (not just cars) and (ii) the proximity of this key intersection to the RailRunner, the 4th & Montaño intersection should be designated as a Transit Oriented Development area. Similarly, zoning for the area surrounding Montaño Road and the railroad tracks just east of 2nd Street should also be designated for Transit Oriented Development.

Character Zone 6

§ Much of the area north of Montaño on the east side of 4th Street was recently added to the list of historically and culturally significant areas by the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Cultural Affairs. Any changes to 4th Street in this area should reflect the significance of this area to Albuquerque and to the State.
§ We support many of the changes proposed for this Zone, including the importance of sidewalks (currently nonexistent) on the east side of 4th Street, the major pedestrian crossing at Grecian and 4th Street, consolidation of existing curb cuts and the use of alley ways. However, we are concerned that the proposed streetscape changes to 4th Street in this Zone do not fully address the desire of residents to make this area more pedestrian friendly by reducing the number of projected vehicle trips (see page 4-44) along this stretch of 4th Street.
§ In addition to the urgent need for sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly streetscape improvements in Zone 6, we fully support and agree with the desirability of revitalizing Guadalupe Plaza shopping center. Guadalupe Plaza has great potential to tie together the commercial revitalization of 4th Street with the residential areas surrounding it, provided zoning for this parcel does not permit drive-through establishments, gas stations, car washes, etc. It also has great potential for destination-oriented development due to its proximity to existing trails and the city-owned Los Poblanos Open Space to the west.
§ We believe that zoning on the east side of 4th Street in Zone 6 should be “General Mixed Use” but with the same restrictions on drive-through establishments as provided in “Mid-Range Community Mixed Use.”
§ We would like to see a portion of the lot on the northwest corner of Grecian and 4th Street (immediately adjacent to the existing Credit Union building) zoned as a City Park.
§ We are unclear why the proposed MRA was not extended northward to include all of Zone 6.

Through years of neglect and lack of planning, North 4th Street continues to decline. As a result, the City is losing valuable gross receipts tax dollars and the quality of life of those who live and work in the area continues to be adversely affected. The Study is a good and necessary first step. We want to express our sincere appreciation to the City Planning Department, the Consultant Team, and the North 4th Street Working Group for their hard work on this Study. We look forward to a date in the near future when specific actions are taken to revitalize this commercially, culturally and historically significant road.

Sincerely,

Steve Cogan, Chair
Christopher G. Kenny, Vice Chair