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Route 66 News

Business owners say ART work will hurt Route 66 festival

Businesses along the Nob Hill sector in Albuquerque say next month’s Route 66 Summerfest will be hampered by ongoing Albuquerque Rapid Transit construction.

In a featured guest column signed by 16 other business owners in the Albuquerque Journal, Stone Mountain Bead Gallery owner Robert Steinberg said a recent article about how crews will be finished with ART construction in the Summerfest area by its start July 22 is misleading.

But the facts are these:

1) Nob Hill extends from Girard to Washington – note the big neon arches designating the district at these cross streets.

2) For the past seven years Summerfest has been celebrated from Girard to Washington, with live music at both ends.

3) Summerfest is the largest event in Nob Hill and is for many merchants, myself included, the best day of sales all year.

4) We Nob Hill merchants were promised, in meetings last year, that Summerfest would not be disrupted.

How is leaving out half of Nob Hill not disruptive?

Steinberg said because the festival area is chopped in half, the craft fair will have to be canceled. He’s now calling the event “Bummerfest.”

He continues:

After many months of depressed business, now we see that the east half of Nob Hill will even be deprived of our best day of the year. […] Once again small local businesses are being hurt by the city and ART construction. Route 66 Summerfest should be extended east, as it has been since 2010, to all of Nob Hill.

The letter caused enough of a stir that KOB-TV in Albuquerque did a follow-up story with Steinberg.

Steinberg said Summerfest was the best day of the year for business. Instead, his employees are creating beaded art in silence for customers who never come.

“I don’t want to disappear because of this,” he said. “But am I making any money? Heck no.”

I remain a bit skeptical the effects of ART, once finished, will be as grave as opponents predict. Perhaps Mayor Richard Berry and other ART supporters’ main argument — a rapid-transit system along Central Avenue will attract members of the millennial generation and good-paying companies — will come to fruition.

But there’s little doubt ART construction continues to be a hardship for businesses along Route 66 in Albuquerque. I saw firsthand this spring how disruptive it is. Travel times on Central are so bad, Google Maps steers away from it when calculating a best route to a destination.

Maybe history books one day will see Berry’s vision for ART as a good one. But if ART doesn’t work out, it could hamper his rumored bid for governor of New Mexico. Albuquerque is a town any gubernatorial candidate can ill afford to lose.

UPDATE 6/26/2017: The Journal published a follow-up to the guest column it published. The key part:

The city issued a news release May 25 headlined “ART construction in Nob Hill to finish in time for Route 66 Summerfest.” And while the city noted in the release that this year’s Route 66 Summerfest would take place on Central between Girard and Carlisle, the release did not reveal that about eight blocks of Nob Hill would be left out of this year’s Summerfest.

The merchants say Summerfest has been celebrated on Central from Girard to Washington for the past seven years.

(Image from Route 66 Summerfest in Nob Hill in 2016 by Enrique A Sanabria via Flickr)

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