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Jan 6, 2017

Downtown Albuquerque Revitalization in Full Gear as Work Starts On Long-Planned $40 Million Project

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“The downtown skyline is changing,” said Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry as he surveyed a currently vacant space on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and First Street, “and that’s a good thing.”

The Mayor made his remarks at the groundbreaking of the $40 million One Central, a project that will include sixty market rate apartments, 44,000 square feet of entertainment and restaurants, and more than 400 new parking spaces in an overall space measuring 260,000 square feet.

The project, developed by the Albuquerque-based One Central Operating Associates, is regarded by city officials as not only a game-changer for a highly visible site that has been underused for years, but a catalyst for bigger things.

“It’s really going to make a difference in downtown,” said Jerry Mosher, one of the partners with One Central Operating Associates, and a prime mover behind getting the project launched.

“I think that everyone is going to see a totally different downtown in two years,” continued Mosher. “Denver has done it. Phoenix has done it. All these other towns have done it. And right now with our visionary city leadership we are actually going to get it done.” 

Such optimism is perhaps typically on display at any ground-breaking, but in the case of downtown Albuquerque in recent months that optimism is borne of experience.

In just the last year alone, construction wrapped on a $19 million project some three blocks from the One Central site. The Imperial Building at 205 Silver Avenue SE has 74 new apartments as well as a long-anticipated full service grocery store, below grade parking, and a rooftop garden terrace.

Roughly five blocks away work has continued on the Merham Lofts project at 517 Gold Avenue SW, transforming an eight-story building that has been vacant for more than a decade - formerly known as the Federal Building - built into a complex with some 200 rental units.

Last summer, the Greater Albuquerque Partnership announced that it was going to build an apartment complex called The Sterling, at the corner of 8th Street and Silver Avenue, on a site that has served as a parking lot. The new $19 million project will house 74 apartment units.

“For years people have said that downtown is coming back, but I think now, with all of these different projects, that has never been more true,” remarks David Silverman, the chairman of the board of Downtown Albuquerque Main Street, a community redevelopment organization.

Silverman, who is also a principal in Geltmore LLC, an Albuquerque-based family-owned real estate firm, contends that part of the new attraction to building, working, and living in downtown Albuquerque is generational.

“I am 33 years old, and my generation was raised in the suburbs,” says Silverman. “But now that they are old enough to be able to live on their own, they want to live somewhere that is different from where we grew up—and that’s downtown.”

Much of the new downtown development has been additionally spurred by the creation of Innovate ABQ at the corner of Broadway Boulevard and Central Avenue, a massive innovation district that saw construction of its first structure, a six-story building housing offices, classrooms, and café space, launch last spring.

The spillover effect of Innovate ABQ on other projects in the downtown area cannot be minimized, noted Gary Oppedahl in an interview last year.

“Something as big as Innovate ABQ very much is serving as a catalyst for all kinds of other development in downtown Albuquerque,” said Oppedahl, the director of economic development for the City of Albuquerque.

In his remarks at the launching of One Central, Mayor Berry noted that there has been more than $150 million in investments backing projects stretching from downtown Albuquerque to the city’s historic Old Town area.

“Most of that investment has been from the private sector, and it has been catalyzed by public/private partnerships,” said Berry.

“Our job is to make sure that we create opportunities,” added Berry. “We put a canvas out there for the private sector to come in, and it’s our job to make public sector investments and drive private sector investments. That’s been our mantra all along.”

 

By Garry Boulard

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