With the economy taking a dive and people losing jobs and (struggling to get their unemployment benefits), it seems like an odd time for a neighborhood to grow by increasing housing and services, but that is what has been happening in Barelas, even after our current recession began.

There are the Barelas Townhomes across from the famed Barelas Coffee Shop, the Barelas Homes housing units near the railyard, the striking renovated triplex project, Casas de Barelas, pictured in the header and just up the street from the Filling Station (home of the Mother Road Theater and the Church of Beethoven), and a few houses being built on lots that have long been vacant.


For some reason, Iron Street between 4th Street and 7th Street is showing signs of a building boomlet – three new homes have been built, with a fourth in the works, there has been major renovation of established homes, plus an active discussion regarding the possibility of a small land trust development, and soon, a renovated school.

Last week I walked over to Iron to take a few more pictures for my blog before posting. There’s a duplex going in that I’ve been keeping my eye on that has some creative design features - I’ve enjoyed the guessing game that comes with them. With the place just about completed, I decided it might be fun to take some pictures and include it in a series of photos of what is happening in Barelas.

As I walked up to the construction site, a man of indeterminate age, with a face that had spent plenty of time outdoors, stepped out of the front duplex. He smiled and we exchanged greetings – I told him I lived in the neighborhood and was glad to see the new construction going on.

He introduced himself as Stan, and explained that he was anxious to return to Barelas after living in Corrales for some time. His plans were to build a duplex, and soon afterwards, a house. Walkability and easy access to downtown were the first reasons he offered for returning to Barelas; having family in the area was another plus. From the building site, he pointed out homes of 3 members of his extended family!

We chatted for a bit about the newly built two-story house across the street, and the neighborhood discussion the previous week regarding a proposal to create a land trust arrangement similar to the Sawmill development for housing on the site of the Iron Apartments.


But buying land in Barelas is challenging.

First, there is the challenge of finding a site that is big enough to build on. Second is the challenge of finding someone who is willing to sell.

People here hold on to their land for generations, and are very reluctant to sell to outsiders. Much of the time, a Bareleño will tell others in the neighborhood that he’s interested in purchasing some land. Sometimes a parcel of land becomes available through a neighborhood or family exchange, sometimes an elder passes on and her adult children, who have moved away and cut their ties with the community, are willing to sell.

Yet even with the slow housing turnover, Barelas is one of the few neighborhoods in the core of the city where the population of children is increasing rapidly. As a result, APS is renovating Coronado School, a Barelas landmark for many Albuquerqueans.


The old Coronado School has been an administrative site for a long time – children in the neighborhood attending public school go to Dolores Gonzales Elementary School across the street from the zoo. After I moved to Barelas, I learned that many of my senior citizen neighbors once attended Coronado School on 4th Street just south of Iron, including my best friend's mother.

Midway through 2008, we noticed some changes afoot at the old Coronado School. Updated fencing surrounded the property, scaffolding appeared at the front of the school, and the old letters proclaiming the school name were removed. More changes could be seen behind the original building, including the beginnings of two buildings – a cafeteria and a multi-media center.


By and large, longtime residents of Barelas are pleased to see the old Coronado school being prepared for a new generation of Bareleños. Some have talked about wanting to volunteer at the school they attended long ago, others have remarked that it will bring back memories to see children playing where they once did. Still others have commented that the re-opening of Coronado School will bring an increased police presence to deter people from conducting drug deals and other unsavory acts in the neighborhood.

Me? I’m hopeful that the school will be the start of a resurgence of good things for Barelas.

And maybe, just maybe, APS will invite the neighborhood to take a peek at the changes they’ve made before school starts next fall. I’d love to see the expressions and reactions of the former students as the reality of the new Coronado School is juxtaposed with their childhood memories.

Despite the gloomy news of the economy, there are still a few bright spots.

Barelas seems to be turning into one.

Views: 104

Comment by Sarahjmd on February 16, 2009 at 12:51pm
Bravo Babe. I love Mondays on DCF. Barales deserves this kind of lift.
I will tell my daughter about this. She is house hunting in this area (valley/downtown) right now.
Comment by ABQSkippy on February 16, 2009 at 1:38pm
Nice post, Theresa.
I didn't know that APS was re-opening Coronado ES. That's terrific. It's nice to see more improvements to inner city areas and schools.
What are the prices of homes in Barelas? Is there a vast range?
Comment by Barelas Babe on February 16, 2009 at 1:51pm
We're so excited about the school!

You know, I'm no Realtor, so I have no idea re: prices and I wouldn't want to steer you wrong. I know that there's a cute little place/brand new duplex near the SW corner of 5th and Iron that is currently for rent. And the prices for the townhomes seem to be around 150K and upwards to $250K, depending on if you are looking at one of the older NM Territorial/Victorian/Queen Anne style homes and whether or not it has been renovated or is in disrepair. What block you are on can make a huge difference - some blocks are owner-occupied and very stable, others are less so.

There's at least one realtor on DCF who knows Barelas well - I'll send her a message to see if she'll answer your question!

(Back to the salt mines for me...)
Comment by ABQSkippy on February 16, 2009 at 2:00pm
Don't make too big of an effort. I was just curious. I saw the prices on the townhomes and wondered what the older homes were selling for. I love the look of the older homes. Either they can be bought for a song and are a money pit or they have been renovated and are completely out of our price range. Alas....
We are not planning a move.
Comment by Barelas Babe on February 16, 2009 at 2:08pm
a href="http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Barelas-Albuquerque/4665/">This popped up in the ads as I was looking for something else.
Comment by ABQSkippy on February 16, 2009 at 2:27pm
Wow. That is quite a variety in housing.
Comment by Ryan Wallace on February 16, 2009 at 2:30pm
Thanks for the story Barelas Babe!

I did the Casa de Barelas units on 4th St as well as a little remodel on 7th ST (Which is owned by the mastermind of Church of Beethoven) and a little triplex on 3rd St SW. We tried to do right by the community by focusing only on properties that were substandard and keeping our prices somewhat low (Under $135k).

However, gentrification will continue to be an issue for the neighborhood.

I hope the city will do more assisted down payment programs, so the children of long-time residents are more likely to stay in the neighborhood than flee to cheap track homes on the Westside.

The biggest problem is the banks. Our goal was to have homes people could buy for under $90k, but legally many of our properties have to be designated condos and because so many big-scale condo projects have failed (Like 6th and Central) banks almost completely refused to lend on them unless it's a well established property (Albuquerque High). I'm still hope to be part of the Barelas rejuvenation, but in the short term we're shutting down our little business.

We will be selling the two remaining units on 4th St for around $130k. (We did find a financing loophole for these particular units). Please call me if you're interested.

-Ryan Wallace
Willow Homes Inc.
505-720-3594
Comment by Barelas Babe on February 16, 2009 at 2:41pm
Hi Ryan - you've been doing some nice work in the neighborhood - Felix's place looks great!

(And did I meet your mother some time ago when you had an auction for one of the units on 4th Street? Sie spreche Deutch, ja?)

You are absolutely right that gentrification is coming (has come?) to Barelas. I'm sorry to learn that you're shutting down your business, though. Are you in on the conversation about the Iron Apartments and Sawmill Land Trust? We need people with your mindset in the neighborhood...
Comment by Gabriel on February 17, 2009 at 11:22am
A lot of my older nieghbors on 3rd street are in shock at all the new construction and renovation. I also just saw a sign by the church parking lot on the 1300 block of Third for new townhomes being built by the Barelas CDC. I have only been in the nighborhood for about 4 years and am suprised at the changes in the last year alone.
Comment by Pat O. on February 19, 2009 at 9:14pm
I drove down Iron Ave the other day (we live on Gold). Some houses are well kept up and others are a bit run down. The street shows signs of more pride of ownership, implying that more homes are owner occupied? Hope so.

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