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History and Background of Sawmill Community Land Trust,
Arbolera de Vida and Sawmill Lofts

The Sawmill Community Land Trust grew out of a long history of community organizing. It was founded by the Sawmill Advisory Council (SAC) in 1997 for the purpose of bring affordable housing and economic activities to the neighborhood. Currently, the Land Trust is reclaiming 27 acres in the heart of the City of Albuquerque into a livable community, Arbolera de Vida or the Orchard of Life. This comprehensive revitalization effort includes housing, a park, plaza, community center, offices, retail space, manufacturing, senior apartments, and live/work spaces for home businesses.

Then & Now: See the amazing land use transformation from the old Duke City Lumber yard to the new Arbolera de Vida community

The Community Land Trust was developed to protect low-income residents from gentrification and to enable them to make decisions and to benefit from the redevelopment of the area. Sawmill is adjacent to the downtown business district and the historic Old Town area, one of New Mexico's biggest tourist attractions. The encroachment of these interests have caused real estate values in the surrounding neighborhoods to spiral upwards, pushing land and housing costs beyond the affordability of most families that have lived here for decades.

Over the past five years, the primary emphasis of the organization has been in the planning and development of the first phase of 23 homes, the plaza, the Property Owners Association (POA) and the creation of an economic development plan. For the next three years, SCLT will focus on Phase II of Arbolera de Vida, further development of the membership and the POA and the expansion of the Community Land Trust to adjacent neighborhoods and redevelopment of the area through advocacy for a Sawmill Metropolitan Redevelopment Area Plan. Phase II of Arbolera de Vida calls for 68 additional ownership-housing units, 22 senior apartments, the extension of an existing acequia (irrigation channel) and trail into the development and a park and orchard. Inherent to the success of the Community Land Trust is the active participation of an informed membership. Strengthening the membership for self-governance and developing a citywide supporter's network will further our organizing efforts.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the $7 million plus, 60 unit Sawmill Lofts was held on June 29, 2005 at noon. The live-work loft apartments will be located at 1801 Bellamah Ave. NW; on the corner of 19th St. and Bellamah NW, a few blocks from Old Town and within walking distance to Downtown.

The project, developed by Sawmill Community Land Trust (SCLT) and JL Gray Co., will serve individuals and families with live-work space. Rents will be below market for income eligible tenants in an effort to support the community with affordable housing. SCLT is committed to addressing affordable housing, economic development and redevelopment within the Sawmill/Downtown area and has been working on the project for almost 2 years. Sawmill Lofts is scheduled to open in May of 2006.

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