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Posted May 15, 2014

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New Central Kitchen at APS

Read the story that ran in Wednesday's Albuquerque Journal about the new food services building now under construction.

By Jon Swedien, Journal Staff Writer
Posted with permission from the Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Public Schools for years has sought to build a new central kitchen to prepare food for more than 65,000 students every school day.

But until recently, the project was too expensive to pursue, said Brad Winter, APS chief operations officer.

The district had allocated $15 million to build the new central kitchen, but the bids for construction showed a price tag of $22.9 million, said Karen Alarid, APS executive director of facilities.

Alarid said the central kitchen was a new challenge for her department because it hadn’t built one in decades. The current kitchen near Interstate 25 and Coal, where food is produced for APS schools and charter and parochial schools across the city, was built in 1965.

“We were just dealing with such a unique facility and it was just a tougher project,” Alarid said.

The district in 2007 paid $1.6 million for design of a kitchen that was to have been built on 11 APS-owned acres at the Sandia Science and Technology Park south of Eubank and Central. When the original bids came in at $24.3 million, APS asked the architect to cut costs, but the price was lowered to only $22.9 million, Alarid said.

APS decided not to build at the technology park, even though it had spent $1.6 million on the design for that location.

That was the right decision, said Bob Murphy, executive director of the Albuquerque Economic Forum. .

Given the project’s high costs, it just wasn’t worth it, said Murphy, who is on APS’ Community Capital Advisory Commission, which advises the district on construction projects.

In 2012, the district caught a break when a former department store near Louisiana and Lomas was put up for sale. APS bought it for $2.2 million and is renovating it for $8.8 million, Alarid said.

She said the project – including the land purchase, building renovation and both new and old design costs – will amount to about $13.3 million, which is millions less than the cost to build at the technology park. That’s partly because the department store had the necessary utilities for the kitchen operation, Alarid said. Also, the new location is more centrally located than the technology park, she said.

Crews began renovations last winter and are expected to finish by Dec. 3, Alarid said.

“It was kind of a quote-unquote no-brainer,” said Bob Murphy of the new plan

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