Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Survey part of push to support Bernalillo businesses

—Bill Diven

While Bernalillo is open to new business, it’s working to boost the business it already has.

Meanwhile, Applebee’s may yet come to town, building on the high-profile site it picked about two years ago and cleared off.

And the town, working with the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, is about to conduct what is believed to be its first comprehensive opinion survey of business owners. The three-page questionnaire asks about experiences, operations, customers, and challenges but also inquires about what public infrastructure would benefit the business.

A draft of the survey also asks if owners would be interested in participating in a Bernalillo-based business group.

“The survey will gauge what is helping and what is impeding opportunity,” Maria Rinaldi, town director of community development and planning, said during a meeting of the Bernalillo and Bernalillo West Area Business Council. “This is truly an effort to identify business as our community partners in growing the economy.”

The council is part of the Rio Rancho chamber. The chamber’s Ambassadors group will be contacting all Bernalillo businesses—local, franchises, and home-based—and the survey can be filled in then, mailed in, or done later online.

The survey is expected to begin in mid-May. Since it’s being done by the chamber, instead of the town, responses can remain confidential.

Meanwhile, the town is working to protect existing businesses as the New Mexico Department of Transportation prepares to widen U.S. Highway 550 through the commercial strip from Camino del Pueblo across the Rio Grande to State Route 528. The two-mile corridor is home to retailers, restaurants, gas stations, laundromats, drug stores, and a bank—all contributing to the town’s tax base.

NMDOT’s chosen design concept replaces the center left-turn lane with a median with few breaks leaving town leaders and business owners to worry about access and lost business. Mayor Jack Torres, a retired business owner, has been pressing for an economic analysis as part of the project planning and for backage roads giving access to businesses from behind.

“We can’t destroy that economic core,” Torres told the business council. “We’ll hold steady with our requests, and if they have to become demands, we’ll approach that.”

Torres, however, said one of the questions he’s asked the most is, “What happened to Applebee’s?”

The national chain won zoning approval from the town in August 2014 for an Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar on the southeast corner of U.S. 550 and Camino del Pueblo. But nothing has happened on the 1.2-acre site, and both the zoning permit and building permit have since expired. Now Apple New Mexico LLC has reestablished contact with the town.

“It looks like it’s back on track,” Torres said. Phone messages left by the Signpost at the company and its parent company asking about possible construction plans were not returned.

Another restaurant chain, Blake’s Lotaburger, is including Bernalillo in its plans for a new building design it unveiled recently. However, that involves closing the current Blake’s east of the Rio Grande and opening the new one west of the river on a forty-acre tract Santa Ana Pueblo is developing south of U.S. 550.

A Blake’s spokesperson told the Signpost the move is unrelated to the widening of U.S. 550, which might take part of the current store’s frontage for the expanded right-of-way.

“It’s really about taking down the old building and putting up a new one across from the Santa Ana Star Casino,” Marketing Director Lucy Rosen told the Signpost. “It’s a better location.”

The location on tribal land will take the building off the tax rolls although the town will continue to provide water and wastewater services.

Also coming to Bernalillo is an expansion of the Bosque Brewing Co. of Albuquerque, which will move into the former Jackelope building after renovations. The property is on the west bank of the Rio Grande north of U.S. 550, and the building will include a deck overlooking the river.

The town also is doing its part to support the state’s flourishing brewing industry by hosting the second annual Mountain West Brewfest at Loretto Park. The event will be held on the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend and this year adds New Mexico distillers to the mix

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