CNM bringing film production to the Rail Yards

Progress on Albuquerque’s Rail Yards has been slow since the City first purchased the location in 2007, this is what the Yards look like today.

Plans are moving forward to create a Film Production Center of Excellence as part of a plan to redevelop the Albuquerque Rail Yards south of downtown. Earlier this year, Central New Mexico Community College President, Katharine Winograd and Mayor Tim Keller signed a Memorandum of Understanding to announce the idea.

“We see this as an opportunity to be nationally recognized,” Winograd said.

CNM has been educating technicians to support the TV and film industry for 15 years. Now CNM is planning to expand its effort with a 35,000 square foot production and training facility at the Rail Yards.  

The partnership followed Netflix’s announcement to buy Albuquerque Studios and base its primary film and TV production in New Mexico, which is expected to increase the demand for trained and professional production employees.

The CNM project will provide opportunities for those in the community who aspire to create a career in the multi-million-dollar industry.

Concept for Albuquerque’s Rail Yards Master Development Plan pitched in June 2014. (Photo Credit: City Of Albuquerque)

“The excitement of having Netflix here has made us dream even bigger and think about all the things we can do not only in the programs we have now,” Winograd said. “We see this as an opportunity to be nationally recognized and be the place not only for films but we see this as the place to come for education.”

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham visited the Albuquerque Studios earlier last week to sign the film incentive legislation, boosting annual tax rebates in the industry while also bringing more film and television business to New Mexico.

CNM and the city of Albuquerque began the process of evaluating and reviewing the infrastructure and space that will be needed for the center. The city has made a state capital request for $15 million to support site improvements and an expansion of utilities, according to the memorandum of understanding.

“We are teaching them basics of the business: camera, lighting and sound — but we are also teaching them the etiquette, any industry will have certain rules that have to be followed,” said CNM film instructor, Charlie O’Dowd. “Nothing has happened yet, (but) the hope would be that the entire program would be moved into the new building.”

The Rail Yards project has been more or less in effect since the City of Albuquerque first purchased the property in 2007. That lead to the official establishment of the Rail Yards Advisory Board (RYAB) in March 2008. But progress has been slow.

“I don’t understand why redeveloping this location has taken so long,” said Albuquerque resident, Alex Padilla. “I think that there are so many creative and beneficial things that can be done here, it’s honestly a waste.” Padilla lives in the Rail Yards area.

Timeline of the progress that Albuquerque’s City Council has developed for the Rail Yards, beginning in 2007 and ending in 2019.

Mayor Tim Keller recently tore apart a contract between the city and Samitaur Constructs, a California-based contractor hired in 2012 to develop the site. They were terminated because they have not exercised reasonable diligence in the last few years, according to the first-term mayor who inherited the project from the previous administration.

A new vision promises to make the Rail Yards an exciting part of the downtown area, while preserving the culture and historic importance of the location. With the addition of CNM as a potential anchor tenant, the city hopes for interest from other related businesses to increase and help boost the economic development in the city.

“We are hopeful that the Center will add momentum to Albuquerque’s efforts to revitalize downtown and the Rail Yards site,” said CNM Vice President, Samantha Sengel.

CNM is still awaiting approval for funding and for the architectural process to get started. Classroom space could be ready as early as 2021.

Hayley Estrada and Steven DeAnda are reporters for the New Mexico News Port they can be followed on Twitter @Est3Hayley and @stevendeanda15.