Shovels could break ground early next year to turn the two-story parochial school attached to the old First Baptist Church Downtown into a modern bioscience lab for startup companies.
The University of New Mexico is finalizing a deal with California-based developer HatchSpaces LLC to take over the project as part of the Innovate ABQ high-tech research and development zone at Broadway and Central, executives from HatchSpaces told local community leaders in an online forum Thursday afternoon.
“We’re close to being able to formally announce the kick off of the project,” HatchSpaces principal Howard Kozloff told forum participants. “There’s just some ‘i’s’ still to dot and ‘t’s’ to cross.”
UNM, which acquired the church’s 7-acre Downtown property in 2014 to turn it into an innovative entrepreneurial hub in the heart of Albuquerque, has for years targeted conversion of the former parochial school as the next phase of development for the Innovate ABQ site, following the 2017 opening of UNM’s six-story Lobo Rainforest Building. But until last summer, site development was managed by a nonprofit entity that faced financial challenges and legal issues in building out the Innovate ABQ hub, encouraging UNM to re-take control of the project.
This year, HatchSpaces approached UNM’s Lobo Development Corp., which manages the university’s real estate investments, to discuss a partnership agreement that would place the California company in the driver’s seat for the bioscience lab project, said Kelly Ward, Lobo Development Corp.’s business development director.
“That company has a great track record in California for this type of life-science-focused real estate development,” Ward told the Journal. “We were prepared to go it alone on the project, but then HatchSpaces came to us.”
The company specializes in building research and development facilities for bioscience companies, making the Innovate ABQ project a good fit, Kozloff said. It plans to convert the 26,000-square-foot structure, which sits on the west side of the First Baptist Church Sanctuary and office tower, into wet labs and office space for startup companies looking to launch and grow in Albuquerque.
The company hopes to break ground on the renovation in early 2022, after finalizing its partnership with UNM and acquiring regulatory approvals, Kozloff said.
“We have some diligence left to fully assess the condition of the building, but we envision about nine months of construction time,” he said.
The renovation investment will be shared between UNM and HatchSpaces.
“We don’t know the total yet,” Ward said. “We expect to finalize the partnership deal in the next four weeks or so, and then HatchSpaces will do some design work and determine the costs.”