UNM South May Get Restaurants

Visitors to The Pit, residents of Lobo Village and everyone else who spends their time at the University of New Mexico’s South Campus could have more places to eat and shop within the next few years.

Lobo Development Corp., the university’s nonprofit corporation that handles its real estate transactions, agreed on a contract this week with an Ohio-based company for the development of the three parcels of land UNM owns in the Avenida César Chávez and University SE area. In a few years, the nearly 50 acres of land could be barren no more.

The deal between UNM and Fairmount Properties, of Cleveland, still has to be approved by the regents finance committee, then the regents. It also doesn’t have a price yet, since UNM and Fairmount first need to determine the precise value of the lease. But the selection of a developer is a pretty big deal, regent Jamie Koch said.

That’s because, even though South Campus includes The Pit, Lobo Village, the Student Support and Services Center and other UNM entities, there is a serious dearth of food establishments and retail stores. The 900 or so students who live in Lobo Village, on Avenida César Chávez just east of Interstate 25, have no restaurant options within walking distance. Neither do the 1.3 million people who visit The Pit each year, according to UNM.

But that could change with the selection of Fairmount Properties, one of the four real estate companies that bid for the project. UNM started looking into developing the area in 2007, but the developer it chose pulled out when the economy collapsed the next year, according to Koch. In 2010, the school again solicited bids for developers but failed to attract any. This year, UNM tried again, and pre-approved four firms. Fairmount Properties was selected in late March, and the contract was approved on Thursday by the Lobo Development Corp. board, on which regents Koch and Don Chalmers serve.

“We look forward to working with local New Mexico — and Albuquerque specifically — building designers … should we be fortunate enough to get that far in the process,” Fairmount principal Adam Fishman said. The next step includes talking with residents and community leaders, he said.

Early plans call for a 6,500 square-foot restaurant, a coffee shop, and 22,000 square feet of shops just west of Lobo Village, according to a copy of the contract. The parcel east of Lobo Village is slated for another restaurant.

UNM earlier this year put out a request for proposals for a restaurant there, but Fairmount Properties will now be in charge of that. On the final and largest piece of land, south of The Pit, developers have planned several restaurants, retail stores, a drugstore, a bank, and housing. Of course, UNM still has to approve any final plans.

“We’re very fortunate to have chosen them as our developer. That will give us a revenue base on that property for a long time for the university,” Koch said.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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