A portion of the Mari Mac Village Shopping Center in Los Alamos. Courtesy photo
Leaseholders in the Mari Mac Village Shopping Center were shocked to hear Wednesday morning that the shopping center is under contract and that there are plans for “demolition and redevelopment”. The announcement was made by Los Alamos County Council Chair Sara Scott at the end of an interview with Nancy Coombs and David Sutton on KRSN Radio.
Asked if the entire property was to be demolished, Scott said she thought the property in question includes the whole complex.
“The developer is looking forward to working with the community to address housing as well as other needs and interests,” she said.
Scott said she thinks people will be excited about it and that it’s part of a multipronged effort to address some strategic priorities. Sutton asked Scott if the developer’s plan was to demolish the buildings where AutoZone is located.
“What I know is demolition and redevelopment. I don’t have any other planning information or specifics on that. I believe that will be in the developer’s hands,” Scott replied. “Just to be clear, it’s under contract; it hasn’t been finalized. It’s a process. There’s a lot of things in motion but I believe it’s a good step forward. It’s probably one of the biggest and more frustrating vacant spaces in the community.”
In a phone call with the Los Alamos Reporter, Scott said she met last fall with Kroger, the developer and a representative of Los Alamos National Laboratory to represent the community interest. She noted that there was another developer also present at that meeting. She named the developer as Larry Hawker and the company as New Mexico Innovation Triangle.
Asked if she has met with the developer since the fall, Scott responded that Hawker comes into town every once in a while, and has chatted with (Los Alamos County Community Development Department director) Paul Andrus and the Council’s Land Use Committee which is comprised of Scott, Councilor Randy Ryti and Councilor James Robinson to keep in touch.
The Los Alamos Reporter first heard of Mari Mac being under contract during a phone conversation with Scott on Monday but agreed to allow Scott to make the announcement in her update column to be sent to local media Wednesday evening.
After the radio interview, Scott told the Reporter in a phone call that she was unaware the businesses at Mari Mac had not been informed. Asked what the plan was for the small businesses and if that was discussed in the meetings with the developer, Scott said he noted that he had to talk to them but that she didn’t know any of the specifics. The Reporter asked Scott if there was any representation at the meetings with the developer by anyone who could advocate for the businesses.
“Certainly we expressed that we would like to get them taken care of. My understanding was that they were going to try to work with them and figure out a path forward,” Scott said. She noted that she would call Hawker and let him know that there’s concern now. Scott said she first heard the property was under contract on Monday.
Pajarito Brewpub co-owner Patrick Mockler-Wood told the Los Alamos Reporter Wednesday morning that he was shocked to hear that property is under contract. He said Priority Properties, the company that manages the lease for the Kroger Co. was also shocked. He said he is still trying to get his bearings since hearing the announcement.
One of the businesses that would be directly affected by the if the property sale goes through is Unquarked which has been embroiled in a dispute with Los Alamos County over a stop work order placed on his premises in November. An appeals board hearing for Unquarked before Scott, County Manager Harry Burgess and Planning & Zoning Commission Chair Terry Priestley has been set for June 11.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Unquarked owner Prashant Jain said he is left asking himself “whether the reason two judges with an extreme level of conflict have thus far insisted on taking part in Unquarked’s case is to ensure a certain outcome that would make this deal easier”.
“I never thought I would have to ask myself something like this, but I do now,” Jain said.
“We were all blindsided today – everyone at Mari Mac, including those still picking up the pieces from the recent vandalism,” said Jain’s colleague Cortni Nucklos. “My heart goes out to all our fellow tenants. We’ve come to expect ridiculous developments from the County, but they have not.”
Nucklos said it isn’t as if the tenants have anywhere to go.
“Restaurants can’t move into any space. Gyms, like our wonderful neighbor at LA Fitness have already been hard hit. I fear this is the end of the road for some of us, at least in Los Alamos,” she said. “So when I hear Chair Scott talk about excitement around this, and when I think about the many officials who told us that the County really did want to see is open in the space, I’m indignant.”