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Regents approve UNM’s ‘Innovate ABQ’ plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — ‘Live, work and play community’ sought

A plan allowing the University of New Mexico to obtain a $1.5 million federal grant to help purchase a seven-acre Downtown site for a proposed research district, called “Innovate ABQ,” was endorsed Tuesday by regents.

Plans call for work space for start-up companies together with apartments and student dormitories intended to attract researchers, professionals and entrepreneurs who will form a “live, work and play community” at the site, UNM President Bob Frank told regents.

The site at Central and Broadway SE, once occupied by the First Baptist Church, will be developed by a consortium of public and private partners, including UNM, Sandia National Laboratories, the city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, he said.

Successful research districts create a density of creative professionals living within a square mile “where people bump into each other with enough frequency that they make things happen,” Frank said.

The First Baptist Church site offers the ideal location because it is only minutes from the UNM campus and offers a lively, urban environment attractive to creative people and entrepreneurs, he said.

The regent’s action Tuesday was required by the federal Economic Development Administration to move forward with UNM’s grant application, said Lisa Kuuttila, president and CEO of UNM’s Science and Technology Corp.

The appraised value of the property is $6.6 million, she said. Kuuttila had no estimate on when the federal agency would finalize the grant application.

UNM formed an advisory group last fall with more than two dozen university and community leaders to work on Innovate ABQ and other initiatives. Albuquerque councilors have approved $2 million in city bond funding to help launch Innovate ABQ.

UNM plans to model Innovate ABQ on a research district formed by the University of Florida in Gainesville called “Innovation Square.” Perkis & Will, the design firm for the Florida project, is the design consultant for Innovate ABQ.

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