Downtown grocery store facing dirty setbacks

Posted at: 12/05/2013 6:55 PM
Updated at: 12/05/2013 10:36 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Residents of Downtown Albuquerque may have to wait a little longer for their long-awaited grocery store – and the reason for the expected delay is downright dirty.

It was supposed to be a grocery store/apartment complex combo project occupying the old parking lot on Silver between 2nd and 3rd streets. Downtown residents and visitors have been longing for something like this for years – decades, even – always clinging to hope.

"I'm pretty sure we'll get one," said Marisol Rivas Garcia, a resident out for a walk with her dog. "It's downtown, so of course, well, I hope so. I hope so."

"Isn't there like a 7-11?" wondered Joseph Montiel on Central Avenue. "The thing is, this is why we're so car-dependent."

A local development firm called Geltmore finally went for the four story project, planning originally to start it sometime last summer. But then the developer got a surprise. They found that the soil underneath the old parking lot was non-compactable dirt, 15 feet deep, incapable of supporting a structure like that.

"This area used to be part of the floodplain of the Rio Grande, way back when the Rio Grande used to be a little bit bigger," said Rebecca Velarde, who heads the city's redevelopment agency. "This can be a problem in Downtown. It doesn't affect most properties, but it does affect several of them."

People sometimes say if you've got lemons, you make lemonade. In this case, the developer decided that if you get a dirty deal, you make mudpies.

Okay. Not mudpies. But how about digging out the 15 feet of bad dirt and building an underground parking structure?

"Roughly 100 parking spaces, subterranean," Velarde said. "That's going to provide parking – Downtown parking – for residents and visitors and because of the extra parking we’re going to be able to put an extra story of apartments on top!"

Will there be a happy ending to this dirty story? KOB Eyewitness News 4 will keep you posted.