A new partnership between UNM and the city of Albuquerque will allow graduate students in the University’s School of Architecture and Planning to help plan Albuquerque’s cityscape.

Officials at the city Planning Department said ABQ UNM CityLab is a partnership that will take place in a 3,000-square-foot facility Downtown at 505 Central Ave N.W.

Project manager Linda Rumpf said graduate students will work to redesign Route 66 as part of ABQ the Plan, a city improvement initiative that includes improvements for the Rio Grande, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line and the Paseo Del Norte and I-25 interchange.

She said students will also work on projects that address other issues, such as a city neighborhood or city corridor, potential development zones or infrastructure issues.

Improvements to the river will make it more accssible along major crossings. The Paseo Del Norte interchange improvements will make travel times shorter for morning and evening commuters and a BRT will connect east to west from Tramway to 98th Street.

Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning Geraldine Forbes said the city will pay the $50,000 annual lease for the facility. She said the University will use resources it already has to staff the facility. She said the partnership provides a formal venue for students to plan with city officials.

“We’ll be doing research and collecting data that is available for city use as well as our own use, so we’ll be sharing data and ideally design ideas,” she said. “They’re really excited about the prospect of working Downtown, collaborating with the city (and) trying to work on projects that they feel would contribute to the environment and the growth of the city.”

Forbes said the project allows students to gain real-world experience and offer the city new design and planning ideas. She is working with University program directors to design the curriculum and decide which classes would suit the Downtown space.

“Provost (Chaouki) Abdallah pointed out that we’re all part of one giant ecosystem (and) that’s the city of Albuquerque,” she said. “UNM is part of the community and so it’s an advantage to us to make this a healthier, more exciting and vibrant ecosystem or city to live.”

CityLab will be a space for graduate students primarily, but Forbes said she hopes space for undergraduate students will be available in the future.

Mayor Richard Berry said in a press release that the CityLab partnership facilitates progress for Albuquerque’s future in city planning and design.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity for the city of Albuquerque to connect with our flagship university in a meaningful way that will not only move our city forward but will provide the next generation of professionals an opportunity to contribute to the planning of our city,” he said.