July 16, 2008

Sawmill Trust Gets Grant To Clean Up Ponderosa Site

By Juan-Carlos Rodriguez Journal Staff Writer

The Sawmill Community Land Trust is getting $225,000 from the state to help clean up the old Ponderosa Products site.

The land trust received the "Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund" from the New Mexico Environment Department to clean or remove contaminated surface soil on the roughly 7-acre site. The Department funds the loan through a $1 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Rick Shean, the Department's revolving loan fund coordinator, said three projects have received funds so far, one in Silver City and two in Albuquerque.

A brownfield is defined by the EPA as "a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant."

"The cleanup of the historic Ponderosa Products site is important for the vitality of Downtown Albuquerque," Environment Department Secretary Ron Curry said in a statement announcing the loan. "This project will provide affordable housing in this growing part of the city that is an ideal location for redevelopment."

According to Curry's statement, the trust already has built 56 housing units, a community plaza, 60 live/ work units, and a new park and playground on the property adjacent to the former Ponderosa Products site. The trust plans to expand the development by including a mixed use space that will integrate housing, artist studios and retail and dining venues, according to the statement.

The statement said Ponderosa Products Inc., which was open from 1973 to 2001, manufactured pressed particle board. The facility is just north of the Explora museum.

The land trust was founded in 1997 by the Sawmill Advisory Council to acquire and hold land and to create affordable housing.

The land trust works in a 27-acre area and helps redevelop the area and facilitates home sales for new home buyers. Buyers purchase only the house, not the property, but the buyer receives a 99-year renewable lease on the land. The land lease contains resale restrictions, giving buyers a fair return on their investment but ensuring that the home will be affordable to the next low- to moderate-income family.

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