Farmington's Gateway West Development solicitation draws just one response
Lone proposal for site described as retail development idea
FARMINGTON — An attempt last fall by Farmington officials to solicit ideas for the development of two vacant city-owned acres west of the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park sparked limited interest, with only one proposal being received.
The so-called Gateway West Development is envisioned by city officials as a public-private partnership, according to Warren Unsicker, Farmington's economic development director.
City officials issued a request for ideas for developing the property last October, emphasizing that they were looking for proposals that would feature recreational components. The solicitation that was sent out states the city's vision for the property is for it serve as "experiential retail site with view of the river and access to trails to accentuate the outdoor recreation culture of Farmington and provide both nightlife and recreation-focused retail experiences."
A deadline of Oct. 21 was set for receipt of the proposals.
Only one idea was received, Unsicker said. He described it as a retail development proposal submitted by Ireke and Shantel Cooper, the owners of Cooper Fire Protection Services Inc. in Farmington.
Unsicker said the city would explore that idea further with the Coopers. He emphasized that the process of developing the property is only in its preliminary stage, and no agreement with the Coopers has been reached.
Unsicker said he was not surprised that the city's request for ideas drew such a limited response. He said public-private enterprises are difficult to engineer in New Mexico because of the anti-donation clause in state law, a restriction many other states don't have in place.
"We're not offering much in the way of monetary incentive at this point because we can't," Unsicker said.
But trying to develop the property under a public-private arrangement has the advantage of not being done entirely on the city's dime, he pointed out.
The site is considered a prime piece of real estate, given the fact that it is sandwiched between East Main Street, which sees more than 36,000 vehicles per day, and the scenic Animas River corridor. The city describes the site as level and shovel ready, while the back side of the property offers excellent views of the river, the bosque and the sandstone bluffs on the opposite bank.
"We haven't capitalized on the river as a destination," Unsicker said.
He said the next step in the process would be sitting down with the Coopers and discussing the full scope of their vision.
Unsicker said he didn't know if the city would seek new proposals for the site if an agreement with the Coopers cannot be worked out, or if the idea of developing the property would simply be shelved.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," he said, explaining it likely will be a couple of months until a decision is made.
City officials have indicated they prefer to see a project for the site that promotes the corridor as a public gathering spot. The Farmington Museum is engaged in the process of crafting a new strategic plan, and city officials are working on creating a new "iconic" park on a 5-acre site on the east side of the museum.
That project is envisioned as something that would serve as the crown jewel of the city's parks system, drawing both local residents and regional visitors with a variety of attractions, including such amenities as sculptures, specialty gardens, shade structures, terraced berms, a boardwalk, an amphitheater and a plaza for the Farmington Growers Market.
The city's riverside trails system would be extended to connect with the park-museum-Gateway West complex.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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