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Flourishing job center

The Jefferson and north Interstate 25 corridor – running from Paseo del Norte south along Jefferson to I-25 – has become a premier employment center for Albuquerque. Light traffic near Jefferson and Masthead NE can get quite crowded during rush hours. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Spurred by an unconventional partnership between a local brewery and a small army of community partners that focuses on training for special needs employees, Restoration Pizza opened on Lang NE in early April.

After an early adjustment period, the restaurant has grown quickly during its first few weeks in operation, said Jotham Michnovicz, chief development officer for Bosque Brewing Co., which owns and operates the pizza restaurant. Michnovicz said the new restaurant has benefited from its location near the northern end of the sprawling Journal Center complex, in a fast-growing development known as Legacy at Journal Center.

Restoration Pizza, in the new Cabela’s development in Journal Center, is one of many new businesses locating to the area. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

“We like the fact that it’s visible and a lot of exposure,” Michnovicz said. “There’s such a dense and significant daytime population.”

Restoration Pizza is the most recent opening in a flurry of new developments in Journal Center and the so-called Jefferson corridor, which extends south from Paseo Del Norte to the Interstate 25 interchange and development on Jefferson.

Journal Center Corp. is related by ownership to the Albuquerque Publishing Co., which prints and distributes the Albuquerque Journal.

Although a slow economy and construction on the Paseo Del Norte on-ramp slowed the office park’s growth several years ago, it has grown rapidly in recent years, with new businesses relocating from other parts of the city, and new food and drink outlets springing up to accommodate the growth.

“We’re the premier suburban office park in Albuquerque,” said Lowell Hare, president and CEO of Journal Center Corp.

Hare said construction on Journal Center began nearly 40 years ago, in part as a way to facilitate the Albuquerque Journal newspaper’s move from its Downtown building to a larger space. Hare said the park ultimately evolved into the largest office and industrial park of its kind in Albuquerque.

Traffic on Jefferson NE passes Headline Blvd. in the Journal Center/Jefferson corridor, which has become a premier employment center for Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Additionally, Journal Center anchors the Jefferson corridor, which is home to more than 65,000 weekday employees, according to Justin De La Rosa, marketing coordinator for Bosque Brewing. Hare added that the area is now the largest employment center in the city, with more employees than both downtown and uptown Albuquerque.

Journal Center alone houses up to 11,000 employees and is currently 95 percent occupied, Hare said, adding, “We have one of the lowest vacancy rates in the city.”

He credited the area’s success to its location and freeway access, with easy connections to Rio Rancho and Northeast Heights, where employees can commute in all directions.

Seeing relocations

Because of that, Hare said, companies tend to relocate from other parts of the Albuquerque area.

The relocation of Clampitt Paper Co. to Journal Center is a good example of attracting longtime local businesses in Albuquerque to new, more modern business centers.

One such company, Clampitt Paper Co., officially moved its Albuquerque operations into an 11,000-square-foot space in Journal Center in late March. The Dallas-based paper company had previously worked out of a smaller building at Candelaria and Richmond NE, but Craig Metros, division manager for the company, said the old space was cramped and occasionally unsafe.

Metros said employees occasionally dealt with stolen equipment and vandalism at the old office, and credited the security staff at Journal Center.

“It’s safer, it’s cleaner and it’s more functional for us,” Metros said of the company’s new office.

Hare said the area recently began attracting more stores, restaurants and coffee shops, given the heavy daytime traffic in the area.

Local Satellite Coffee was quick to move into Starbucks’ old spot in Journal Center when Starbucks moved farther south along the Jefferson corridor near Osuna.

Albuquerque-based Satellite Coffee opened earlier this year in the Market Place at Journal Center, after Starbucks terminated its lease and moved to a larger space on Jefferson near Osuna, south of Journal Center.

Starbucks’ new location is in the Independence Square development, anchored by Lovelace Medical Group’s two-story, 43,000-square-foot clinic and office building that opened in April 2017. The development plans call for retail and more restaurants.

Retail boost

Meanwhile, retail activity has picked up in Legacy at Journal Center, a 20-acre development next to Paseo Del Norte. Albuquerque’s first Cabela’s, Legacy’s anchor tenant, opened in 2017 at the southwest corner of I-25 and Paseo Del Norte. Hare said the Nebraska-based outdoor sports outfitter shifted the plan for Legacy, prompting a more dramatic move toward retail.

The sprawling Cabela’s campus next to Paseo del Norte and Jefferson is drawing new businesses to the area. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

“When we landed Cabela’s, that changed that whole 20 acres,” Hare said.

The change attracted Restoration Pizza, which opened across the parking lot from the outfitter.

De La Rosa said the restaurant debuted a lunch buffet to cater to the mass of employees during the week, though it also draws heavily on traffic from Cabela’s during the week. He added that he believes the restaurant is only going to grow in popularity.

“We haven’t reached our (maximum) capacity, which is nice,” De La Rosa said.

Hare said more developments are in the pipeline, including the center’s first apartment complex, which will contain around 200 units. Hare said he has no concern about demand for the planned apartment complex, citing the employee base living in the area.

“That’s why I’m not worried about filling up 200 apartments,” Hare said.