In a Facebook world of instant gratification it may seem slow. In a real world of bureaucracy and public money, Innovate ABQ is growing like a rainforest in the desert.  

The Board of Regents for the University of New Mexico has formally approved a development framework for a seven-acre plot of land on the northwest corner of Central Ave. and Broadway NE.

The board of Innovate ABQ now begins the process of finding private developers with a similar vision. The site will be reshaped into an area that is denser, more walkable, welcoming to students and other small business entrepreneurs and a throbbing pulse of economic development activity for the city of Albuquerque.

First Baptist Church site as it looks now.

The regents endorsed the possibilities. Now the reality will shape and reshape itself as the City of Albuquerque slowly alters the physical surroundings of the neighborhood with a new transportation plan, changes to make the spaces between Innovate ABQ and downtown much more pedestrian friendly, and private developers enter the picture.

The change in the surrounding neighborhood is already in progress as local developers and entrepreneurs move into the area. The vision is to reshape Central Ave. between UNM and Downtown.

A Powerpoint presentation was given to the Board of Regents during its regular meeting Monday.

The development framework is a platform that will allow organisms to thrive, says Perkins + Will Urban Design Leader David Green. “This takes advantage of the embedded values of the university and moves outward.”

Terry Laudick, the president of the Innovate ABQ board said a request for information has drawn interest from both local and national development firms and that a more formal request for proposal will probably be issued in late April. Laudick says release of the framework documents will “remove the veil of ambiguity from the project.”

The project has already been through a master planning process led by the firm of Perkins + Will. The development framework show initial plans for the property itself, and also for the surrounding community.

Rendering of Innovate ABQ site by Perkins + Will.

Dale Dekker, Founding Principal/Architect of Dekker, Perich, Sabatini, said, “This has been a massive amount of work and it is going to bear great fruit in the 21st century in Albuquerque.” He noted that it is in alignment with the 2010 sector development plan for the city.

The proposal will divide the property into four segments and allow Copper Ave. and Union Square St. to be extended through it. It will retain current buildings at the corner of Central and Broadway that remain from the time the property was owned by the First Baptist Church.

Innovate ABQ is set up as a New Mexico non-profit university research park corporation by the UNM Board of Regents. The project has financial participation from the City of Albuquerque, Nusenda Credit Union (formerly New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union), the County of Bernalillo and the University of New Mexico. The board, made up of representatives of the contributing entities and local business people, will make policy decisions for the property. 

STC.UNM, UNM’s technology transfer and economic-development organization and a non-profit corporation owned by the UNM Board of Regents, has led the economic development activity since it was initiated by UNM president Robert Frank in July 2012, but it is turning further development of the site over to the new Innovate ABQ board.

One vision of Innovate ABQ district by Perkins + Will.

STC.UNM, led by CEO and Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila will continue to focus on its primary mission of commercializing intellectual property of faculty, staff and students at UNM and leading the economic development efforts on behalf of the university.

Everyone involved with the project hopes that Innovate ABQ will become a nucleus of new life for the downtown-university corridor, foster economic growth, research and innovation.

Innovate ABQ Timeline

  • Summer 2012 – UNM hosts an economic development summit to talk about economic development as a priority of the university.
  • Summer 2013 – UNM and City of Albuquerque representatives visit University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. to look at Innovation Square as a possible model for Albuquerque.
  • Summer 2014 – UNM purchases seven acres of land and buildings at the corner of Central Ave. and Broadway NE owned by the First Baptist Church with financial contributions from Nusenda, the City of Albuquerque, STC, through a federal economic development grant and the university. Additional funds for development came from the County of Bernalillo.
  • Fall 2014 – Planning for the site begins
  • Winter 2014-15 – Innovate ABQ is organized into a non-profit corporation and a board is appointed.
  • Spring 2015 – Development framework for Innovate ABQ is approved by the UNM Board of Regents.
  • Spring 2015 – RFP for initial development of the site will be released.