ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A prominent storefront along Route 66 will soon be home to Downtown Albuquerque’s first food hall.
Architect Mark Baker confirmed plans to establish the restaurant concept featuring eight different food and beverage vendors with shared seating on the ground floor of a historic brick building at 505 Central Ave. NW. Baker sees it as a chance to not only add more fast-casual dining to a downtown core that’s often starved for such options, but also to create a unique dining experience that lures hungry customers from other parts of town.
“I always see people out looking for a destination,” he said. “This is going to be that destination.”
Food halls – multiple food vendors in a shared, typically indoor space – have become trendy in many American cities recently, with new concepts springing up in cities like Denver, Austin and Phoenix. Baker said his vision would be different than anything currently in Albuquerque. Unlike Green Jeans Farmery, the concept will be entirely indoors, with a much smaller footprint than the long-awaited Sawmill Market north of Old Town.
The three-story brick building that will house the market was built in 1937, and has housed Lovelace and Sears, among other tenants, over the past 80 years. Baker’s firm, Baker Architecture + Design, purchased the building in 2016 with an eye toward restoring it to its former glory. Baker said he intended to develop a food hall there before he purchased the building, citing the shortage of unique, counter-service lunch spots for downtown workers.
“That’s what we determined we really needed downtown,” Baker said.
Baker enlisted the help of Kate Gerwin, a New Mexico native who has launched bars and food halls in other parts the West, as a partner and advisor. Gerwin said a key to the project is its size. At 13,000 square feet, the project is relatively small by food hall standards, which Gerwin said gives vendors the ability to create a vibrant space without sacrificing their unique energies.
“People go to restaurants because of the energy and vibe, not just the food,” Gerwin said.
Baker said the food hall will occupy the entirety of the building’s ground floor, about 13,000 square feet in total. Humble Coffee Co. already operates a cafe in the ground floor, and Baker said he plans to knock out an interior wall and bring the coffee shop into the food hall. The food hall will feature a central bar and dining area with a variety of seating options, ranging from community tables to bar stools.
Both Baker and Gerwin declined to name other potential vendors, but said they were planning a mix of different cuisines, from pizza to ramen. Baker said Kyla Stoker with CBRE is handling the leasing for the building.
Baker said he expects the food hall to open in early 2020. He’s tentatively calling the food hall “505 Central Market,” a nod to the historic building’s address and, of course, Duke City’s area code.
“With an address like that, why overcomplicate it?” Baker said.