UNM has announced Phase I of Innovate ABQ: a “Live, Work, Play” space for students.

The UNM Board of Regents approved an agreement to build a nearly 159,000 square foot, six-story building on the Innovate ABQ property site on the northwest corner of Broadway Boulevard and Central Avenue.

“It's going to create extraordinary opportunities for all kinds of UNM students,” University President Bob Frank said.

That includes students from a variety of backgrounds, including art and business, he said, giving them a chance to take their core areas of studies and apply them to the real world.

The ground floor of the new building will house office space for STC.UNM, academic space for Innovation Academy, a Nusenda Credit Union branch, café and fitness center.

The five upper floors will hold 155 two-bedroom living units that will be marketed to Innovation Academy students in addition to upper level undergraduate and graduate students.

“The kind of vibe we wanted to develop were these ‘live, work, play’ communities to have all of these elements,” said STC.UNM CEO and Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila.

STC.UNM works to create new innovative and technological opportunities for the local University area. 

Kuuttila said the building has been a part of the development plan for Innovate ABQ from the beginning, after a study was conducted in 2013 to help envision ideas for the property usage.

From the survey results, importance was placed on student housing, incubation space and the Innovation Academy, she said.

“It's been really an incredibly process to get to this point, working with all the different partners,” she said. “I’m so excited to actually see this coming to fruition now so it will be more real to our community and I think it provides tremendous opportunities for our students.”

Kuuttila said this first building also provides a way for STC.UNM to activate the long-developing Innovate ABQ property.

“It’s what I call the nucleus of the site,” she said. “Having activity on the site is really the best way to start things.”

Another benefit to the new building is that STC.UNM will be partnered with the Innovation Academy on the first floor, she said.

The Innovation Academy, assists students of any subject to add business and entrepreneurial skills to their credentials.

“Being co-located down there, we’re just going to have all kinds of opportunities for joint programming, events together and working with the students that are living there,” Kuuttila said. “I think it’s going to be really literally a huge jump in the amount of activity that emerges in the commercial sector by virtue of this.”

The project will also increase the density of the neighborhood just east of downtown, which has been a longtime goal of Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry, according to UNM Newsroom press release.

“This extraordinary opportunity is a catalyst for our city, higher education and downtown,” Berry is quoted as saying in the press release. “This project will help the revitalization of downtown Albuquerque by bringing UNM's Innovation Academy and student housing to the Innovate ABQ site.”

The development group for the project, consisting of a partnership between Signet Development, Goodman Realty and Development, and Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, will serve as landlord while UNM’s Board of Regents will be listed as the tenant in a 30-year lease on the building, according to the press release.

Frank said the plan is to start construction on the building in the next six weeks.

”It’s fantastic. We’ve come a long way in a pretty short time. From just a bare idea about three years ago to having the resources to put a building up and ready to go,” he said. “We’ve done well. It’s hard to get an idea as big as this together in that amount of time.”

The next step for Innovate ABQ will likely be to develop an incubation space, Frank said, which means people who have ideas they want to grow can have space where they can grow those businesses whether they are a scientist, artist or other type of entrepreneur.

“They need some place where they can bring their idea to fruition, we need to have that type of space and that’s the next step we’re going to take,” he said.

Matthew Reisen is the news editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo.