Wanted: Developers to work with older property on Route 66, west of University of New Mexico, east of downtown Albuquerque

As the Innovate ABQ initiative unfolds, the effort has reached a critical point. The University of New Mexico and its partners purchased the seven-acre property at the northwest corner of Broadway and Central Ave. The group established a non-profit corporation, Innovate ABQ, Inc., operating under the New Mexico Research Parks Act. UNM’s Board of Regents put together a board of directors to make policy decisions for the property. And an architectural design firm is working on a master plan for the property that will be presented in March to the UNM Board of Regents.

Now, the Innovate ABQ board has made its first move to find private development partners to work with by launching a formal Request for Statements of Interest & Qualifications.

It could be the opportunity of a lifetime. The goal of Innovate ABQ is to build an innovation district in the heart of Albuquerque to give people who want to start and build businesses a place to work with others who are doing the same thing. At the heart of that district will be the Broadway and Central property.

“A critical part of Innovate ABQ is putting students who want to build businesses into an environment that will let them work with each other and with business people who can support their efforts,” said UNM President Robert Frank. “We have to create an environment where the ingredients for an innovation economy can combine and mix.”

The effort will have all the University can give to it. The Office of the Provost is creating new innovative courses, tracks and programs at UNM. These will provide learning opportunities for students who want to become innovators and entrepreneurs. One goal of the RFSO is to find developers willing to lease the ground and build that live/work space on the property.

Universities don’t always push this hard to develop an economy, but Frank believes UNM has no choice. He said, “We want our graduates to have good jobs waiting for them, so we need to do what we can to nurture an opportunity for our students to create those jobs for themselves.”

Frank said he would like to see UNM grow westward along Central toward the downtown property. UNM’s business school, the Anderson School of Management, has more than 1,800 students in class this spring. The university has 25,000 students in class on the main campus. Across the street, on the UNM North Campus, nearly 800 medical students, nursing students and pharmacy students help staff the only regional trauma hospital in the state. Less than a mile away, Central New Mexico Community College has 25,000 students, also preparing for the workforce.

It’s the largest, youngest workforce in the state, concentrated into a roughly three square mile area. The trick will be to find a way to channel all that raw energy and talent into jobs and companies to form an economy that can support New Mexico.

The RSOI document is available for developers with an extraordinary imagination. It’s not often the opportunity to change the face of an entire state economy comes along.