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Workforce housing possible on Yucca Center land

Pictured from the cross streets of West Albuquerque Street and South Richardson Avenue is the recently cleared lot where the city-owned Yucca Recreation Center once stood. The demolition of the 108-year-old building began in December after being approved by the Roswell City Council in August. (Alison Penn Photo)

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The 2.95 acres where the recently demolished Yucca Recreation Center once stood may be used for a workhouse (affordable housing).

Bill Morris, community development director for the city of Roswell, said the demolition is complete on the land at 500 S. Richardson Ave. Morris said the city will explore a request for proposals process for work on the property once a decision for development is made.

Morris asked the Infrastructure Committee to consider the potential use of the land. The committee only discussed possibilities and no formal vote occurred at Monday’s meeting.

This time last year, the city hosted a public forum to gain ideas on what citizens thought was needed at the property. Morris listed the former suggestions: a neighborhood park, a dog park, a splash pad, an alien-themed recreational park, athletic fields, affordable/workforce housing, a region-specific fish aquarium and a skate park.

Councilor Juan Oropesa, chairman of the committee, asked what was the best option in Morris’ opinion and Morris replied, saying that workforce housing was his first choice.

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“I would say that it is perfect for an affordable housing project area because … of benefit to this neighborhood of having new stuff in there,” Morris said. “I think this is valuable. It’ll help stabilize that area. It’ll still put those units into the tax rolls and provide for housing — decent housing — for young professionals that we’re trying to recruit to come here.”

Morris said he has a drafted master plan of 18-20 units of multifamily townhouses for the property. He said the approximately 2,000 square feet (or smaller) per unit would be oriented east and west, facing outward and gated.

Explaining the term workforce housing, Morris said such a property could house and attract young professionals to Roswell. He explained such tenants would be required to report verifiable low to moderate income.

“The market in this particular scenario would be for young teachers, the young firemen, the young cops, the medical techs, young nurses — your societal infrastructure folks that are just getting out — and so trying to create that is affordable and still of a higher quality for people that are in these needed areas,” Morris said.

Kevin Dillon, the city’s projects and facilities director, explained a portion of the complex could be used as “teacherage” or housing for teachers employed by the Roswell Independent School District. Dillon said it would be “tough to defend” building a teacherage in Roswell, since such facilities are commonly used in areas where housing is difficult to find for teachers such as Ruidoso, Hobbs and Carlsbad.

Dillon said two contractors have expressed interest in the land. Morris said the workforce housing complex would be privately owned with the advantage of a nearly “free” property where utility lines are already in place.

Morris said the surrounding neighborhood has mixed levels of care and Dillon said it would be “an upgrade in the area.”

“If we do the affordable housing and you get a contractor in here to build affordable housing, they’re going to go back on the tax record,” Best said. “That, to me, is the only thing on her that will give Roswell back any income. The other of it is liability. We’ve got to pay liability on the parks and the fishes and the skate parks and all that.”

Councilor Juan Oropesa said he was concerned there were not enough teachers in need of housing. However, Oropesa said the workforce housing plan was more “preferable” than the other suggestions.

Councilor George Peterson said he approved of developing the land into a park or the affordable housing. Peterson asked which park was the closest to the property currently.

For the park option, Dillon said the closest park is near Washington Avenue Elementary School and about six blocks away.

For other affordable housing, the committee also had preliminary discussions on a plat for Habitat for Humanity houses near East Reed Street and South Cahoon Avenue (near Melendez Park), which will be considered by Planning and Zoning and potentially the full City Council.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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