First Baptist Church Site
Rendering of possible development at Frist Baptist Church site at Central and Broadway NE
Credit: UNM School of Architecture and Planning

Innovate ABQ, Inc. has taken a significant step toward selecting a developer for an entrepreneurial partnership site in downtown Albuquerque. The board of Innovate ABQ will be entering into a 90-day due diligence agreement with Signet Development, Goodman Realty Group and Dekker Perich Sabatini for the development at Central and Broadway SE.

After three years of collaborative planning by The University of New Mexico, STC.UNM, the City of Albuquerque, Nusenda Credit Union, and Bernalillo County, the Innovate ABQ board began the search for a developer in April and made the selection of the Signet group because of their strong balance of local and national talent and experience with this type of project.

“This marks an exciting milestone and step forward in the continued progress of Innovate ABQ,” UNM President Robert G. Frank said. “Signet, along with their local partners have the talent and experience necessary for us to realize our vision of creating a thriving live, work, play environment along Central Avenue."

Board members said Signet demonstrated an understanding and enthusiasm for the vision of Innovate ABQ, which was a significant factor in their selection. They pointed to Signet’s vision for the property as true mixed-use with an emphasis on incubator, lab and maker space for innovators, entrepreneurs and researchers.

Board members also commented on the developer’s commitment to a plan and construction choices that will result in an environmentally sustainable and green environment and footprint, and their financial abilities and commitment to helping startups coming out of the Innovate ABQ ecosystem through possible financial and in-kind support and resources.

“We are very pleased to have a strong national-local team of developers interested in Innovate ABQ. It reflects our partnership’s collective vision for the future of growth in the innovation district in Albuquerque,” said Innovate ABQ Chairman of the Board and Interim President, Terry Laudick.

This selection means that the Signet group will have a 90-day exclusive right to conduct due diligence and do preliminary planning, after which the group will submit a more detailed proposal for the project. At that time, the Innovate ABQ Board will determine whether or not the Signet Group will be selected as the developer for the Innovate ABQ project.

The Innovate ABQ project is new territory for the university. Frank proposed the idea in 2012 when he became president. He believed the university should take a more prominent role in local and state economic development in accordance with UNM’s Vision 2020 economic development goal. He also wanted to strengthen career and growth opportunities for UNM graduates to stay in New Mexico.

Money to purchase the property, which formerly housed the First Baptist Church, came from the Innovate ABQ public and private partners: Nusenda Credit Union, the City of Albuquerque, a grant from the U.S. Commerce Department Economic Development Administration through STC.UNM, Bernalillo County and the UNM Board of Regents.

The UNM Board of Regents formed Innovate ABQ as a non-profit corporation under the auspices of the New Mexico University Research Park and Economic Development Act.