Courtesy of Albuquerque Plaza/ US Eagle FCU After more than two decades of branding with a bank name, New Mexico’s tallest building, the 22-story Albuquerque Plaza in Downtown, will bear the name of US Eagle Federal Credit Union.
Play to your strengths.
That was the advice from keynote speaker Darin Mellott at a NAIOP-New Mexico luncheon Monday. NAIOP is the commercial real estate development association.
Mellott, the director of research and analysis for commercial real estate firm CBRE’s Southwest Region, said despite its limited economic diversity, underemployment and intergenerational poverty, the Duke City can grow its economy and backfill empty office, retail and industrial space by capitalizing on its assets.
“You can’t just say you are going to reinvent yourself as a tech ‘capital,’” said Mellott. The city doesn’t have the labor base, and the amenities don’t warrant it, he added.
While there was anemic growth in the industrial and retail sectors year to date, Albuquerque was the worst-performing commercial real estate market, both in terms of vacancies and lease rates, in CBRE’s Southwest region. It was outdistanced by Tucson, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. The office vacancy rate for Albuquerque was nearly 30 percent; downtown Salt Lake City’s is in the single digits.
“The city isn’t performing as well as some of you would like,” said Mellott.
He urged the audience, which included city councilors and community leaders, to remain realistic about Albuquerque’s economic prospects, but to aggressively build on the economic strengths that include tourism, second-home buyers, healthcare and, increasingly, data centers.
At best, the region might attract some more small businesses, especially if the owner wants to live in Central New Mexico for the lower cost of living, cultural diversity and history, growing food and microbrewery sector, proximity to recreation and the nearby Santa Fe art scene.
Mellott, who is based in Salt Lake City, said Albuquerque’s economic and civic leaders might follow the example of Ogden, a Utah city that has seen a solid turnaround in the past decade, especially the transformation of a downtown area that was blighted and crime-ridden.
He said places like Ogden, a center of outdoor recreation, have benefited from small initiatives to stoke its economy and the growth of regional transit lines along the Wasatch Front, where developers have been building housing and retail centers.
Despite its controversy, the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project appears “like a good place to catalyze future growth,” said Mellott. In the long term, “ART seems like a sound idea.”
Ogden, once known for decades of economic stagnation, now boasts one of the strongest economies in the state. Outdoor recreation is one of the tickets helping drive information technology jobs to Utah, said Mellott.
“What’s the lesson for Albuquerque?” asked Mellott. “Do something. It takes doing just one fundamental goal (the right way) to turn things around. Inaction carries a cost.”
Success begets an attitude of success, he added.
By: Steve Sinovic (Albuquerque Journal)
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