Museum group may lose Rail Yards vote

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — For five years now we've been hearing about the city's multimillion dollar plans to bring the old downtown rail yards back to life with shops and restaurants.

Now as Mayor Richard J. Berry gets ready to unveil more about those plans, there's new controversy as a longtime participant in the project may lose its vote on the Rail Yards Advisory Board.

The former Santa Fe Rail shops cover 27 acres of mostly empty buildings abundant in broken windows.  The shops once provided thousands of jobs, and one of the city's grandest hotels stood nearby on railroad property.

The hotel and the jobs are long gone, but tucked within the surviving industrial buildings is a lot of history.  And the people who have worked hard to preserve its past are worried they're being cut out of its future.

What many people may not know is behind the old tracks, broken glass and doors is the Wheels Museum

For 20 years volunteers have worked to preserve the history of the rail yards.

"We're going to be the cultural part and we're going to be the soul of this place because it's our history," Mauro Montoya of the museum said.  "It's what made Albuquerque a city."

Museum volunteers say they've raised money to change the face of the old rail yards while preserving its history to keep it from losing its soul.

After the city bought the rail yards for $8 million in 2007, it formed the advisory board with political leaders, developers and the Wheels Museum to work on the future of the rail yards.

But now the city is putting the brakes on Wheels saying as the project moves forward Wheels shouldn't have a vote.

"We're devastated.  We're shocked," Leba Freed said.  "We cannot believe it."

"I've devoted 20 years of my life full time as a volunteer."

A resolution sponsored by Councilor Isaac Benton on the agenda for Monday's Albuquerque City Council meeting would strip Wheels of its vote on the advisory board and reduce its status to nonvoting membership.

"There are concerns, legal concerns, about potential conflicts of interest for any organization that has a direct financial interest in the project and whether or not they should have a vote on the board," Kara Shair-Rosenfield with the city told KRQE News 13.

Over the years, the city has talked about putting shops, restaurants, art galleries, condos, a park and a farmers market on the property. 

The city hosted an open house at the rail yards Saturday to get public input on the property and how it should be developed.

Copyright 2014 KRQE TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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