BLOOMFIELD — A development group has purchased 60 acres in Bloomfield with an eye toward attracting a mix of retail and commercial businesses along U.S. Highway 550.

The development, if it forges ahead, could transform the city of 8,000.

"There's a long stretch between Albuquerque and Bloomfield. When you hit Bloomfield, there's not a lot of reasons to stop," said Michael Eaves, an Albuquerque developer. "I think we can address that."

Plans could include restaurants near Bloomfield's San Juan River walk, an RV park and an anchor retail establishment, Eaves said.

"We want to really enhance what's there, but not change it dramatically from what it is," he said.

The prospect of development has been met with open arms in Bloomfield, where civic leaders are particularly enthusiastic to attract business near the river. They point to the San Antonio River Walk as a model.

"That will bring in a lot more people to an area that a lot of people, even in Bloomfield, don't know that we have," said Bernadette Smith, executive director of the Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce.

The development group, REM Holdings, owns about 25 acres of the west side of U.S. Highway 550, and about 35 acres on the east side. The partners are Eaves, Hayden Rader, a developer from Glenwood Springs, Colo., and Eric Miller, an architect with ties to Glenwood Springs, Albuquerque and Las Vegas.

REM Holdings has twice met informally Bloomfield city officials to discuss their conceptual plan. The developers plan to return in late November with more details. The development has not yet entered the formal city planning process.

"We're just getting started," Eaves said.

Eaves said the city's pro-business stance doesn't hurt. "The city's very pro-development, and that helps, too," he said.

Mayor Scott Eckstein said the city is ready to help the developers cut through red tape.

"We'll do what we can to help them along," he said.

Eckstein said he wants Bloomfield to become self-sufficient, so residents don't have to drive to Farmington to shop. He added that Bloomfield should have some amenities unique to San Juan County to draw visitors.

Bloomfield sits at the doorstep of oil and gas fields in the San Juan Basin. The local economy relies heavily on nearby industrial activity. While natural gas drilling has declined dramatically in recent years, Encana Corp. and other firms are exploring for oil in the Mancos Shale, giving new hope for economic development.

Eaves said the developers see energy-related activity ramping up in Bloomfield.

"We're hoping that this energy situation is going to improve, if not in the near term then some time in the future for sure," Eaves said. "We think that's a pretty good bet."

Bloomfield has also suffered through a monthslong widening project of U.S. Highway 64 that has devastated businesses along the highway corridor. With that project nearing a close, some Bloomfield residents are working to start a new civic organization, Gateway City Civitan Club, to beautify highway medians in the city.

The developers' timing is fortuitous, said Smith.

"It's going to be a tremendous improvement, even for the looks of Bloomfield," she said. "We're going to look really good."