A rainforest has sprung up in the middle of New Mexico’s high desert, adding new life to Albuquerque’s downtown. City, county, state and federal officials today joined The University of New Mexico and its private partners in cutting the ribbon to officially open the new Lobo Rainforest Building at the Innovate ABQ site at Broadway and Central.
Terry Laudick, chair of the Innovate ABQ board of directors and president of Nusenda Credit Union, said, “We are excited for this catalyzing event. The Lobo Rainforest marks the first of many exciting developments on Innovate ABQ's seven-acre site. Phase by phase we are making progress in our vision to create a vibrant and inclusive innovation district at Albuquerque’s core focused on supporting diverse entrepreneurs, from high-tech to main street and micro-enterprise.”
The $35 million, 160,000-square-foot six-story facility at the old First Baptist Church site will house students, Innovate ABQ tenants, and UNM’s Innovation Academy (IA). The live, work, play concept with its combination of academic and entrepreneurial components is designed to drive innovation, education and economic development in New Mexico.
“We describe our Lobo Rainforest as human innovation ecosystem in which creativity, business acumen, scientific discovery, investment capital, and other elements come together in a fertile environment that nurture budding ideas so they grow into thriving, sustainable enterprises,” said Interim UNM President Chaouki Abdallah.
The ground floor of the building provides an interesting mix of tenants, including STC.UNM (STC)—the University’s technology transfer and economic development arm—the IA, a Nusenda Credit Union branch, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Technology Engagement Office, Sandia National Laboratories, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Group and several startup companies housed in STC’s business incubator—the Cecchi Venture Lab.
Floors two through six are the living spaces for students. Spacious two bedroom, two bath apartment-style units include a full kitchen, living space, washer and dryer, and scenic views of the city.
Additional amenities include:
- Fitness center
- Designated parking area
- Steps from the ABQ Rapid Ride, the Rail Runner and the new ART system
- Great downtown arts and entertainment venues
UNM student Kyle Guin first heard about the project as a senior in high school and was drawn to the concept. “As a student I now have a place to live and work where I am surrounded by peers with similar mindsets and also some of our city’s most influential minds in the entrepreneur ecosystem,” he said. “I will proudly be launching my first product from my office at the Lobo Rainforest in September, and I couldn't imagine doing it anywhere else.”
CNM’s Fuse Makerspace, in the renovated former Noon Day Ministry building at the Innovate ABQ site, will open later this month, providing a space for makers of all kinds to come and create. Renovation of the existing 70,000-square-foot First Baptist Church building and education wing next to the Rainforest building is planned for later this year and will house labs, business incubator and event space.