Skip to main content

History of Rail Yards Redevelopment Efforts

The Rail Yards site is in the Barelas Neighborhood between the rail road tracks and 2nd Street.


This project focuses on the Rail Yards site in Barelas Neighborhood between the rail road tracks and 2nd street.

caption:Google Map of Rail Yards and surrounding area


The Master Plan project began in 2008 with the City Council's creation of the Rail Yards Advisory Board (RYAB) and the City's subsequent issuance of a Request for Proposal to redevelop the historic 27.3-acre site. Samitaur Constructs was selected by the RYAB and Council in 2011, and a series of meetings was initiated in mid-2012 to gather ideas and aspirations for redevelopment of the site from various stakeholders, including the Rail Yards Advisory Board, the Barelas and South Broadway Neighborhood Associations, the WHEELS Museum, the New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society and the general public. Preliminary concepts for the Master Plan were first presented at a public meeting in Barelas in late 2012 and several additional meetings to further consider these concepts followed. Information and ideas from these discussions were used to inform the Draft Rail Yards Master Development Plan, which was subsequently reviewed and adopted by the City Council and adopted on June 16, 2014. The Rail Yards Master Development Plan provides the policy framework and design standards (see the Barelas Sector Development Plan for zoning regulations) to guide redevelopment of the site and its structures.


  • June 2019: Execution of the Voluntary Remediation Agreement
  • May 2019: CABQ commences site improvements on northern parcel
  • May 2019: BNSF vacates rail road easement through southern portion of property
  • April 2019: CABQ commences soil remediation on northern parcel
  • March 2019: State allocates $7.5 M for environmental remediation, planning, and site improvements at Rail Yards
  • February 2019: CABQ demolishes dangerous and non-historic structures on north end
  • January 2019: CABQ executes MOU with CNM to locate Film School of Excellence at Rail Yards
  • January 2019: CABQ submits voluntary remediation program application to the State
  • September 2018: The City of Albuquerque terminated the Master Development & Disposition Agreement with Samitaur Constructs.
  • July 2018:  The Albuquerque Development Commission voted that Samitaur Constructs had not exercised reasonable diligence in the last year.
  • July 2017:  The Albuquerque Development Commission voted that Samitaur Constructs had not exercised reasonable diligence in the last year.
  • June 2014:  Council approved the Albuquerque Rail Yards Master Development & Disposition Agreement with Samitaur Construct. EC-14-82.
  • June 2014: City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Rail Yards Master Development Plan
  • May 2014: Council’s Land Use, Planning and Zoning (LUPZ) Committee held its second hearing
  • 2/26/2014: Council’s Land Use, Planning and Zoning (LUPZ) Committee held its first hearing
  • 12/12/2013: Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) recommended approval to the City Council
  • Fall 2013: Submitted to the Rail Yards Advisory Board for review and recommendation
  • October 2012: Workshop Meetings
  • August 2012: Kick-off Meetings
  • June 2012: City entered into a Master Plan Agreement with Samitaur Constructs
  • 2010: City issued a Request for Proposals for a Master Developer of the Rail Yards
  • March 2008: Rail Yards Advisory Board was formed
  • 2007: City of Albuquerque purchased the Rail Yards site


This site and its significant historic structures, located in the historic Barelas neighborhood and between the rail road tracks and 2nd Street, reflect an important part of Albuquerque's economic and industrial past. The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad established locomotive repair shops and offices at the site in the 1880s and these were modernized and expanded by the Santa Fe Railway from 1912 onwards. The Santa Fe Railway was one of Albuquerque's biggest employers and played a significant role in the development of the city. The shops were in full operation until the 1950s, with the switch from steam engines to diesel engines. After the switch from steam to diesel, the rail yards continued to be used for some repairs and storage.

Information for this section came from Chris Wilson, J.B. Jackson Professor of Cultural Landscape Studies and Director of the Historic Preservation and Regionalism Program, both at the School of Architecture and Planning, University of New Mexico.

Following the City's purchase of the Rail Yards in 2007, the City of Albuquerque, along with the Wheels Museum and the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning, invited the Urban Land Institute to conduct an Advisory Services Panel to help the City determine the potential best and highest uses for redeveloping the site. The ULI panel visited for five days, from February 24-29, 2008. The panel, composed of nine experienced individuals involved in planning, architecture and real estate development, was given four non-negotiable parameters:

  • The major buildings and the smaller historically significant buildings must be rehabilitated;
  • The Wheels Museum will locate its operations in one or more of the historic buildings;
  • Redevelopment must have a mixed-income housing component that includes workforce housing;
  • Redevelopment must benefit the adjacent neighborhoods.

With these parameters in mind the ULI panel was asked to address a series of questions. Read more: Rail Yard Questions

The ULI panel produced a series of recommendations focused on four areas: market potential, planning and design, development strategies, and implementation.

  • Market Potential- Various uses are possible on the site but the site's master developer will need to find an anchor user, whether it is conventional retail, commercial, or industrial.
  • Planning and Design- No single use or user is likely for the site; therefore, a phased development program is appropriate.
  • Development Strategies- The city should select the master developer and the property should be rendered as appealing as possible by eliminating the hurdles to successful development.
  • Implementation- Pre-development strategies should include appropriate marketing of the site and the creation of an advisory board to oversee the development process.

The ULI panel report concluded that several steps should be followed prior to the redevelopment of the Rail Yards. One of these steps was to create an advisory board whose responsibilities would include hiring the writer of the RFP, selecting finalists for the RFP and selecting the master developer.