Priority Area: Increase the amount and types of housing options
NEW HOUSING STEAMS AHEAD.
With an increase in hiring at LANL, as well as a sustained need for different kinds of housing to support a growing workforce in a variety of areas, housing in Los Alamos has reached a critical point. It is one of the top priorities for the County. Several key housing projects kicked off – with many more moving from the design stage to shovel-ready projects:
Mirador Subdivision Emerges in White Rock
A-19 Acquisition Group (affiliated with Raylee Homes) began construction of 161 houses on the land formerly known as DOE Parcel A-19 on the north side of SR4 in White Rock. The Council is expected to accept the infrastructure improvements from the developer in January 2020, and several certificates of occupancy have been issued, allowing new home owners to begin moving in.
Upon completion of the current home build-out, Phase 2 of Mirador will occur. It will be a mixed-use project that is constructed just west of the White Rock Visitor Center and will add 60 multi-family rental units.
Canyon Walk Apartments – Affordable Housing on DP Rd
Just east of the Columbia Club (formerly the Knights of Columbus Hall) on DP Rd, the County donated nearly three acres of land formerly known as DOE Parcel A-9 to Bethel Development for construction of 70 one-, two- and three-bedroom units. This development will serve occupants who are low-income qualified. Canyon Walk Apartments will be constructed during 2020 using tax-credit incentives supplied through the State of New Mexico.
The Bluffs – Affordable Housing for Seniors on DP Rd
In June, the State awarded Bethel Development a second low-income qualified tax incentive project for DOE Parcel A-8-b, located across the street from A-9 on DP Road. The Bluffs will bring 64 units to DP Road designed with Senior living and needs in mind. Construction should get underway in 2020.
The Homes at North Community – New Housing
T2 Development purchased property formerly owned by The Black Hole on Arkansas Ave. Demolition permits were issued in November and the developer plans to build 44 houses on the site in 2020.
Visiting Nurses Property – New Housing
Private property owned by the Visiting Nurses Association was sold this fall and the developer plans to build 100 units in 2020. The property offers wonderful views of Acid Canyon and is located near the Jewish Center on Canyon Rd.
The Hill – New Apartments
The developer will build 144 apartments on this beautiful, canyon-edge site formerly known as DOE Parcel A-13, south of Trinity Drive near Los Alamos Medical Center. Road improvements will be made to Trinity Drive in 2020 to accommodate the additional traffic turning to/from the complex. Site plans were approved this summer and construction should get underway in 2020. This addresses an urgent need for more rental units in Los Alamos.
Oppenheimer/Trinity Office Building Renovation
A local developer is finishing a construction project to convert 8 offices into apartments by adding an additional floor to an existing office building at the corner of Oppenheimer and Trinity.
A project at the base of Quemazon Subdivision, along with construction on private lots in North Community, will add another 15 houses to Los Alamos in 2020.
Schools’ Housing Project – North Mesa
The County received a State legislature capital outlay grant for $475,000 this year to use toward infrastructure that is needed for land owned by the Schools just east of the Middle School. The County continues to have a set-aside in its annual budget for dollars targeted to specifically support Schools’ needs such as this. An option being explored for the North Mesa project involves setting up a community land trust. This model - or a similar property ownership model - could affect lower prices to help meet income-qualified needs that have been voiced by Schools’ staff – because of the high cost of living, the desire is to build housing on this site that will be affordable for workforce related needs, including teachers and other Schools’ staff.
Priority Area: Enhancing support and opportunities for the local and small business environment
Hotel/Conference Center Approved
One of the main accomplishments in 2019 was an agreement with a developer to bring a Marriott hotel and conference center to Los Alamos. The County donated land at 20th/Trinity to the developer, TNJ LLC, who will construct an extended stay hotel with 85 rooms on the property. In return for the land donation, TNJ LLC will also build a conference center that can seat up to 300 people with a beautiful setting overlooking Los Alamos Canyon. TNJ will manage bookings for the conference center, and has agreed to promote small business interests by actively seeking local vendors for its coffee shop/restaurant. The agreement fulfills one of the priorities outlined in the Economic Vitality Strategic Plan, which was adopted by Council this summer, for a hotel/conference center to be located in Los Alamos. As noted in the Plan, having this kind of amenity in town has been a goal for over 20 years and many organizations and businesses have voiced enthusiasm for the project, which should be under construction in 2020. The next step will be for TNJ to take site plans to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Another plus? A traffic light will be installed at 20th/Trinity to allow easy access to/from the site, addressing safety concerns about pedestrians safely crossing Trinity to get to Ashley Pond Park.
Pebble Labs Expands
Pebble Labs was the recipient of a State LEDA grant this year with assistance from the County to expand their operations. The Governor and State Secretaries of Economic Development & Agriculture joined the County at Pebble Labs in a press conference to celebrate the award, which was a $4 million grant from the State to expand Pebble Lab’s Bioscience research and development facility at Research Park. Pebble Labs is managing research on food and crop safety, public health and the reduction of the occurrence of vector-borne diseases including the Zika virus. As part of the expansion announcement in July, Pebble Labs said it has reached a breakthrough in substantially reducing disease in farm-raised fish and shrimp throughout the world without the use of antibiotics.
In addition to securing the State grant, the County Manager’s office worked with Council to approved issuance of $60 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds, retaining ownership of a portion of the property with Pebble Labs, who will lease the space back from the County until the bonds are paid.
New Mexico Consortium
When Pebble Labs began outgrowing their incubator space at the NMC’s Biological Laboratory, NMC CEO Steve Buelow decided the best option to keep them in Los Alamos was to sell them the building.
Now, after closing the $11.5 million deal, the NMC is planning on a big move to a new 86,000 square foot building at the Los Alamos Research Park. The new building will house a bioscience laboratory and research greenhouse as well as office facilities, and will be located close the other NMC facility in the same park. The groundbreaking for this new building is slated for April 2020.
The NMC is committed to work and grow new companies and facilitate research at its new space which will bring more high-paying job opportunities to Los Alamos and the surrounding areas.
Visitor Center Gets a new Home Downtown…
One of the top priorities in 2019 was the relocation of the Los Alamos Visitor Center, the first step in the implementation of the new Tourism Plan, which provides direction to the County and its partners on decisions relating to tourism, community investment, cultural opportunities and physical development. The northern section of the Community Building (formerly the Cooperative Extension office) was renovated into a fresh, inviting space for tourists and opened in March. The space is ideal because it is County-owned, located near prime attractions such as Fuller Lodge and Ashley Pond Park, and is next door to the Visitor Center for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
Purchasing a Piece of History
This summer, the County was approached by the Christian Science Church to ask if the County would be interested in buying their building, the former WAC building that was a dormitory during the days of the Manhattan Project. The County paid $600,000 for the WAC Building and closed on the property on September 12, 2019. Once the Church vacates the property, the County will determine the best plan to move forward with any use or restoration of the property, which can then be included in the historic walking tour of Los Alamos.
Wayfinding: Signage Gets Funded
The Tourism Implementation Task Force, a community/staff group responsible for implementation of the Tourism Plan, continued to meet monthly throughout 2019. They are currently working on implementing plans for better wayfinding in Los Alamos – signs that will assist tourists in navigating to parking for the historic downtown area and attractions. Council funded the first phase of signs in FY20 and a bid package is in development, with a goal to fabricate and install the signs by Spring 2020.
Building a Better Website & Display Space
The Tourism Implementation Task Force recommended moving ahead with a plan to update and improve Visit Los Alamos, the main tourism web page for Los Alamos, and work is underway. They also secured funds to update displays in both the Los Alamos and White Rock Visitor Centers and a bid package is in development.
Enhancing the Fuller Lodge Experience
An interactive plan for the historic district - including Historic Fuller Lodge and the nearby History Museum Campus – was completed in 2018, and offered several recommendations and ways to bring the history of the Manhattan Project to life for tourists strolling in and around these historic structures located in the heart of downtown Los Alamos. This year, the Historic District Preservation Advisory Board began phasing in priority items and seeking additional grant funds to implement that plan. The County partnered with the Historical Society to apply for a National Park Service grant and received $10,000 to complete a historical hotel room upstairs at Fuller Lodge, along with a plan to repurpose the main display in the lobby to serve as orientation to the lodge. The former windows at the south end of the lodge (currently display spaces) will also be uncovered and restored. Work should be done by the end of 2020.
“Behind the Fence” Tours Popular in 2019…
For the second year, the County worked with LANL and DOE to offer bus tours “behind the fence” at LANL showing the public the historic sites of the secret Manhattan Project. Tours expanded from one to three times and 300 people took tours during ScienceFest and the two weekends seasonally that the Trinity Site in southern NM is open (April & October). Slots filled up quickly for each tour; attendees gave the experience a positive review.
Support for Trails
The County has over 100 miles of trails enjoyed by residents and visitors, but only has one employee dedicated to their oversight. Therefore, the Council approved a second position for Open Space to assist with trails management. The position was created and approved this Fall. The new hire will help with operating equipment for trails maintenance, organizing volunteers for trail work parties, and other tasks as needed.
Canyon Rim Trail Expansion
The County has State funding to build an underpass under NM502 that will connect the Canyon Rim Trailhead with LA Mesa Trail on the north side. Design is underway and could begin in 2020, pending coordination with the State on the next phase of the NM502 roundabout near the Airport.
Design for the trail’s next phase, to extend the trail from Smith’s Marketplace into the downtown area, made progress this year with additional easement acquisitions secured for private property. It should go to construction next year.
The New Trails Kiosks, Maps and More
The Open Space Specialist held work parties for volunteers several times in the last year to maintain or clean up trails around Los Alamos and White Rock. The Open Space Division has been working with Parks’ staff to update and install new Trail Head kiosks and new markers along trail intersections for better navigation. Trail network guide maps were updated for printing along with the overall trails map showing all trails. The Open Space Specialist led the YMCA YCC trail crew and completed the Los Alamos Canyon Trail connection to Quemazon Trail, extended the Tent Rocks trail and maintained many miles of Los Alamos County trails. N3B became the County’s newest trail adoptee; they adopted the School Canyon Rim trail and have been volunteering monthly to maintain this trail. A section of the Pueblo Canyon Rim trail was renamed to honor Jim Billen’s effort at building and maintaining the trail. Natural Channel Design and Keystone Restoration completed a restoration project in Graduation Canyon. Interpretive signs are being drafted to explain and educate the public of restoration techniques.
Priority Area: Supporting social services improvements
New Public Health Office Re-opens
Staff in the Social Services Division successfully reinstated the local Public Health Office after the State drastically reduced operating hours in 2017. The County secured and renovated leased space for the Public Health office (required by State statute) and services are jointly provided by Las Clinicas del Norte and the State Department of Health. The new office is called the Health Commons and took a community-wide effort with many hours of planning and coordinating to solicit bids, prepare the contracts and renovate the space which is located across from the high school on Diamond Drive. The Health Commons opened in August and has received very favorable reviews from all age groups; residents are grateful to once again have this free service conveniently located in the townsite.
New Health Council
At the end of 2019, the County took action to create a new advisory Health Council, as required by the State. The intent is to roll the membership of the existing Community Health Council into the new County-led Health Council. This will also improve efficiencies in tracking funding and grants, and give the Council better insight and direction as initiatives for improving social services continues in 2020.
Priority Area: Planning for appropriate levels of County Services
Upgrades for New Finance/Utility/HR software
The County implemented an upgrade to its MUNIS software this year, which included negotiating and executing a contract with the vender and working against an aggressive timeline for implementation. Testing of the various components of MUNIS occurred in the Fall to prepare for the upgrade. Through weekly team meetings, close coordination with the vendor, trouble-shooting or tracking interface issues and providing feedback, MUNIS was kept on-line for employees and customers with few service interruptions. Outstanding issues that had been encountered during the initial launch were also resolved by working with departments and the vendor.
Leadership and Training
The County’s “Leadership Academy” provides tools and training to current and potential new supervisors. In May and December, the Academy graduated 22 employees. In addition to formal training provided by HR, members of the senior management team help lead classroom discussions on a variety of topics. The day-long sessions provide good opportunities for employees to network with others across department lines and build relationships that continue after the classes end. This Academy has now been delivered to nine classes of County employees.
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