The new Lobo Rainforest building, located in Downtown Albuquerque, is now home to UNM students as well as multiple innovative groups hoping to influence students, the community and other businesses by networking and creating opportunity throughout the city.
“The University has been involved in a project called Innovate ABQ for the last four and a half years,” said Lisa Kuuttila, CEO and Chief Economic Development Officer at STC UNM. “The vision for the site as a whole, was to develop this live, work, play environment to stimulate creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation.”
Albuquerque did not previously have an innovation district, Kuuttila said, which is why the concept to build a corridor between the University and downtown was created.
The groups that now make up the first floor of Lobo Rainforest are STC UNM, the University’s Innovation Academy, the Air Force Research Lab and Nusenda Credit Union, she said.
STC UNM includes the Cecchi Venture Lab, “which helps get new startup companies off the ground,” Kuuttila said. “There will be five companies in that group: the ElectroSeq, EquiSeq, Enthentica, BioSafe and Yedoma Consultants.”
“The ground floor is designed to be flexible, so there can be movement and have new companies come in and out, especially with the Cecchi Venture Lab,” said Jason Perry, President of Signet Real Estate. “The lab will be starting new companies and having them move in and out of the building all the time.”
The Air Force Research Laboratory is also moving into the new building, said Matthew Fetrow, Tech Engagement Lead for the Air Force Research Laboratory.
“We do quite a bit of research with the University, particularly the school of engineering,” Fetrow said. “We would be thrilled to talk about our research and how to found our research at the University while we’re down there.”
The AFRL is currently located on Kirtland Air Force Base, but Fetrow said they realized the lab needs to be more accessible to the public, which is what made them jump at the chance to be involved in the Lobo Rainforest project.
“We’re deliberately looking to work with the University more and more, both on research, but also on tech transfer,” he said.“From our perspective, the tenants that are going to be down there, are just the type of people we want to be learning from and involved with. We’re excited.”
When deciding who the first floor tenants of Lobo Rainforest would be, the development team, Signet Development, approached a lot of different groups in Albuquerque.
“It was really based on the interest of those who said, ‘Yes, we want to be a part of this activity” Kuuttila said.
Perry said that the two main goals of Lobo Rainforest, in his eyes, are to not only have residents living there, “also to get some academic programs and businesses down there to try and get as many uses as possible in this first project.”
Innovate ABQ’s next step will be renovating the area near the corner of Central Ave. and Broadway Blvd., Kuuttila said.
“A number of people in the startup ecosystem want to be located there. That will definitely be the next phase,” she said.
There will also be an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony with UNM and city officials on Aug. 25.
Kelly Urvanejo is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Kelly_Urvanejo.