Sale of historic building was a dereliction of duty » Albuquerque Journal
On June 7, it was reported the City Council voted to approve the sale of the historic Rosenwald Building for $360,000 in a “private bid” to build condos. In 2009, the city had purchased the historic 42,000-square-foot building for $1.7 million. The city sold the Rosenwald Building to someone who made a $50,000 donation to Mayor Keller’s charitable foundation and $15,000 in donations to his measured finance committee. The sale also includes a 14-year lease by the city of 1,100 square feet for an APD police substation.
Built in 1910, the Rosenwald building on Downtown Central Avenue is the first reinforced concrete building in Albuquerque. It was added to the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties and the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Keller and the City Council have no clue of the importance of preserving a community’s history. Ostensibly they are ignorant of the teardowns of historic structures. First there was the Franciscan Hotel, then the Alvarado followed by the 1970s urban renewal that tore down many historical structures and residential areas and destroyed the Downtown area, making it a ghost town as the city grew to the Northeast Heights.
The Keller administration could have negotiated a 100-year lease, as opposed to a sale that gave title to the building. The Keller Administration should have demanded the purchasers give the city the option to use the entire first floor of the 43,000 square foot building for a substation and not a mere 1,100 square feet of it.
It is the land-title ownership that matters the most. Once title transfers, the new property owners can do whatever they want with it, including building the proposed condos, renovate it for office space, or just hold on to it as a vacant building. The building owners can even seek to have the building declared substandard as to making it a danger for occupancy, have it torn down and build a high rise. Many a Downtown structure on Central have been torn down and are now dirt parking lots.
A question the City Council should have asked is if the real purpose of the APD lease is to provide police protection for a residential development? Another question the Council never asked is how successful has the Downtown Public Safety District located in the Alvarado Transportation center been and why does APD need a 1,100 square foot office area in a condo building just a few blocks down from the Alvarado substation?
In order to prevent this from ever happening again, the City Council needs to enact an ordinance that strictly prevents City Hall from ever selling historical buildings once bought by the city. The ordinance would mandate maintenance, repairs and remodeling as the need requires for city use.
Simply put, the sale of the Rosenwald building should never have happened and was a dereliction of duty by Mayor Tim Keller and the City Council. The sale of a building on the National Register of Historic Places by the city is what you get with Keller, who is more interested in helping his reelection donors with no concern for the city’s history. The City Council failed miserably and was derelict in its oversight function to protect the city’s history.