Soil contaminated with diesel fuel nearly threatens Innovate ABQ project

Created: 07/02/2014 6:29 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Dirt that’s too dirty is a tough concept for a lot of us – but it begins to make sense when its soil contaminated with diesel fuel. That’s what threatened to hold up the Innovate ABQ project in Downtown Albuquerque this summer, but now that threat appears to be eliminated and the project is back on the fast track.

UNM’s Science and Technology Corporation is in the process of buying the old First Baptist Church at Central and Broadway to house the project, which is aimed at launching new high tech  companies creating  new products and new jobs. The purchase price is $6.65 million for UNM, with money coming from New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, the U.S. Commerce Department, and the city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.

A Baptist church is generally a squeaky clean place, but the old First Baptist is built on an old Santa Fe Railroad fueling station. There’s diesel in that dirt, 30 feet deep. That meant lawyers and negotiations and redrawn contracts and indemnity agreements - and a very busy summer for STC.UNM CEO Lisa Kuuttila, leading the charge for buying the property.

“It’s all about just working out the agreement with the railroad and in terms of if we discover a problem during development, who’s responsible and who’s going to clean it up,” Kuuttila said. “It did take us awhile to work that out.”

Bottom line – UNM shouldn’t be on the hook for something that happened a long time ago that didn’t have anything to do with the university.

“It is at a low depth,” Kuuttila said. “We don’t anticipate there will be a problem in development partly because it’s so far under the surface. We don’t anticipate going underground for parking or for people.”

Other agreements and contracts and odds and ends are being tied up now, paving the way for Innovate ABQ – the Launchpad for a high tech future in New Mexico’s largest city.  Closing date on the purchase deal is expected to be July 11.

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