Councilor David Reagor: The Purchase Of Commercial Properties By The County Of Los Alamos

Los Alamos County Councilor

The county has proposed to purchase two properties in Los Alamos, the CB Fox department store and the Reel Deal Theater. We’ve seen an extraordinary number of business closures in Los Alamos, and White Rock is even worse.  Can we buy up all the empty space and make use of it?  Of course not, why start with these two properties?

Some needs have been identified for these properties, perhaps as a food bank or a tween center. There are empty properties all over Los Alamos, and White Rock is even worse.  Just rent some of these empty properties.  There is rhetoric about a vision for the future, but we don’t actually have is a sensible plan for what you’re going to do with the buildings.  The CB Fox building is mostly past its useful lifetime.  The Reel Deal building is a potential treasure, solidly built, and perfect for showing movies.  It lacks natural light and if windows were installed they would let in sound from the outside, compromising the theater.  In its current state it would not be a pleasant place for tweens to hang out, unless you just show movies!  If the citizens of Los Alamos want a cinema they can form a film cooperative and come up with a plan to use the Reel Deal Theater.  I am sure that the county council would listen to such a proposal.

In general, the county government should only use public funds for commercial real estate development when difficult barriers exist.  We instead need to mostly focus on incentives for developers.  These incentives could include roads, parking, and zoning changes.  If we wish to use public money to address the problem of empty space then we should go after the big problem. The big problem is the front of the town, the old hilltop house hotel and the old Smith’s.  This includes the Mari Mac Shopping Center that is now half empty.  Parts of this have been shuttered for 10 years and progress may require the use of eminent domain and significant funding.  We also have the abandoned areas in White Rock that have been waiting for redevelopment for years.  We should focus on these difficult problems and not get distracted by new business closures.