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Regents expected to vote on Innovate ABQ

FORTNER: Moved up meeting to today

FORTNER: Moved up meeting to today

KUUTTILA: Chief of UNM economic development

KUUTTILA: Chief of UNM economic development

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico regents are expected to vote today on whether to invest $7.24 million in a seven-acre site Downtown where UNM”s Innovate ABQ initiative would be housed.

The board postponed a decision after meeting on Dec. 6 to review the project, which aims to establish a high-tech research and development center that could turn the city’s core into a center for technology-based economic growth.

Regents asked for more information about the First Baptist Church property at Central and Broadway Downtown, where the research district would be based.

The board was going to wait until late January for another meeting, but board President Jack Fortner instead scheduled a special meeting today because UNM only has until Jan. 5 to accept or reject a $1.5 million U.S. Commerce Department grant to help pay for the Downtown site.

“The university received notice about grant approval on Dec. 6, and we must reply within 30 days or lose the award,” said UNM Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila.

The grant, combined with a $3 million donation from New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union and $2 million in city bond money, would just about cover the property’s $6.6 million price tag. Administrators are asking for approval to spend the donated funds, and to authorize $640,000 more from the UNM Foundation to pay for a master plan and design guidelines for the site.

Administrators also asked in early December for $5.66 million in foundation funding to acquire and improve the Aperture Center at Mesa del Sol, but regents are not expected to discuss that until January.

Fortner said administrators have provided a lot more information since Dec. 6 to address regents’ questions.

“I think we now have enough information,” Fortner told the Journal. “I expect a vote.”

But administrators will still need to convince skeptics.

“I’m still undecided,” said Regent Gene Gallegos. “We’re being asked to make a decision with public funds, and we must be persuaded that it’s the right thing to do.”