When the Garcia family bought a former liquor distribution warehouse in the Santa Barbara Martineztown neighborhood in 2017, the site’s future was not obvious.
Ed Garcia pictured some kind of media- or technology-based redevelopment. But not everyone shared his vision for the 43-year-old building nestled among document-shredding businesses, auto parts dealers and a company that sells bricks and stones.
Even some potential tenants showed skepticism, he said.
“I told them what I believed this property was worth and what this area was going to look like,” Garcia said. “They thought I was nuts. They wanted to offer me nothing for a light manufacturing or distribution (operation). … They told me I had to go find an out-of-state player to get that type of return, and I said, ‘I will.'”
Garcia Realty and Development ultimately found a tenant: entertainment conglomerate NBCUniversal.
The Garcias and NBCUniversal executives joined Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller on Friday to announce the new, 10-year partnership to develop a new two-stage television and film studio in the warehouse.
All told, Ed Garcia told the Journal his family and NBCUniversal are investing about $10 million in the property.
“Talk about lifting up New Mexico and lifting up Albuquerque,” Keller said during Friday’s news conference. “The Garcia family is single-handedly taking the challenge on, and we’re so grateful for that.”
The warehouse – built for Richard’s Distributing and later sold to Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits – is just the latest in a series of Garcia family property investments. Known predominantly for their network of automotive dealerships, the Garcias have purchased over 1 million square feet of property in the greater Downtown area – all of it within the past five years, Ed Garcia said.
“I’m all in. I have no plan B. I’m in on Albuquerque (and) obviously my commitment is in Downtown,” he said.
Just last month, the Bernalillo County Commission approved selling a four-story building off of Civic Plaza to the Garcia family for $647,500, and the family has made offers on two other Downtown area properties the county is trying to unload.
Prior Garcia acquisitions include Copper Square, at Copper and Fifth Street, and the former Southwestern Brewery and Ice Co. near Lomas and Broadway.
Ed Garcia said the family has purchased other buildings around Santa Barbara Martineztown, too.
“Our plan is to grow with NBCUniversal,” he said.
New Mexico Economic Development Director Alicia J. Keyes said the deal is the first in a planned expansion by NBCUniversal.
“Briarpatch” will be the first series to film in the new studio, but future usage has not been determined.
“It depends on what the show is,” said Carrie Henderson, senior vice president of productions at NBCUniversal. “Right now, we’re going to put one production in here and we’re hoping to expand.”