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Mayor Keller Joins Downtown Businesses, Economic Development and Cultural Services Departments to Boost Downtown

Opportunities for businesses and artists to access support, restore momentum to downtown revitalization

Over the last two years, Mayor Tim Keller’s administration, in partnership with local businesses, artists, and downtown residents, had made significant progress in revitalizing Downtown Albuquerque. The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a serious blow to that momentum. Today, Mayor Tim Keller and City leaders joined businesses to update the public on downtown revitalization and announce new initiatives to use art to activate buildings still under repair and invest $500,000 in bringing people back to the Route 66 corridor.

Mayor Tim Keller said, “Over the last two years we’ve seen businesses, residents and workers return to downtown in waves. Coronavirus dealt a real blow, but we are investing time and resources in restoring our momentum so businesses, workers, customers and residents can get back to building a Downtown that lifts our whole city.”

Last year, Mayor Keller launched the Small Business Office in downtown. A division of the City of Albuquerque’s Economic Development Department. It is the central point of entry for Albuquerque entrepreneurs and businesses providing timely, relevant, actionable information and assistance.

In 2018, Mayor Keller created the Downtown Public Safety District, which put cops on foot or on bike on the streets of Downtown, building relationships with businesses and residents to fight crime. The Downtown Public Safety District team works with organizations like Hope Works and Street Connect to connect people with services and resources. Officers also work with the Downtown Communication Partnership and meet regularly with businesses on issues that affect Downtown.

Project ECHO, made up of first responders, businesses, residents and workers, also works to build a community of safety for Downtown. The ECHO team has helped address concerns about how to de-escalate dangerous situations; respond to someone experiencing behavioral health, substance abuse, or homelessness challenges; and how to handle difficult people trespassing and harassing employees. They have also helped with business rebound plans, how to support downtown art, and how to setup a neighborhood watch.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has taken measures to support local businesses that include waiving fees and efforts to makes Downtown more walkable.  Fees have been waived for restaurants working to add outdoor seating capacity as a way to get diners back quickly and safely. Additionally, the City will waive fees for inspections on commercial swimming pools, restaurant inspections, food trucks permits, and growers market permits for all of 2020. The City is automatically refunding any businesses that have already paid permit fees for calendar year 2020.

To activate spaces downtown that are closed due to COVID-19 or where window repairs are underway, the City has contracted with local company Glass on Wheels to replace broken windows. Businesses that need assistance can contact the Small Business Office at 505-768-3730 or [email protected].

Although boards will need to come down for businesses to be compliant with City Code, the City acknowledged that other boards will need to remain in place while windows are replaced. While those repairs are underway, Albuquerque's Public Art program is collaborating with the Economic Development Department and local businesses to coordinate murals and other street art installations on windows and on boards that need to remain in place for now. Artists may reach out to the Public Art Program for more information at [email protected]​, and businesses who want to participate can contact the Small Business Office.

“We look forward to inviting artists and harnessing the power of temporary visual art to reflect and inspire community as we activate buildings in the heart of the City during repairs,” said Hakim Bellamy, Deputy Director of Cultural Services.

This Friday, ArtWalk Albuquerque is also returning with an event that will heavily feature sidewalk exhibits, curbside markets, and outdoor performances on top of indoor events where feasible. The First Friday ArtWalk events have become a regular favorite, bringing people, small businesses, and the local creative economy together in a way that boosts all of Downtown. For more information visit www.abqartwalk.com.

The City also gave an update on its half million-dollar investment to bring people back to the Route 66 corridor by working with a marketing firm on a paid media campaign. The marketing plan will emphasize bringing consumers back to local businesses along Route 66, helping keep small businesses afloat and people working.

The firm, chosen through an ongoing RFP, will collaborate extensively with business owners, property owners, and community groups along the Central Corridor to focus on activities that will benefit businesses both during the current public health emergency and after public health restrictions have been lifted.

“Downtown is important, young people especially are drawn to Downtown they want a walkable, safe, family friendly place, they want an urban life. As a business owner in Downtown, we have seen wonderful things over the last few years. The area has become more of a well-rounded neighborhood with more housing, cafes, art galleries, and breweries. It is becoming a more vibrant and safe place to be. COVID-19 has been our biggest problem due to the loss of foot traffic so it’s important that we all practice the necessary health precautions so businesses can remain open or reopen,” said Mark Baker, Owner 505 Food Hall/Humble Coffee.

“Our team in the Small Business Office has been actively assessing the state of things downtown, keeping in touch with businesses, and identifying City funding not only for short-term repairs but for long-term recovery and revitalization in the wake of COVID-19. We want to let Downtown businesses and workers know we have their backs, and we will persist in our work on behalf of this area,” said Synthia Jaramillo, Economic Development Director.