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UNM to close Friday on Innovate ABQ property

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico expects to close Friday on the seven-acre, $6.65 million First Baptist Church property Downtown where Innovate ABQ will be located.

UNM Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila called it the “first major milestone” for UNM’s Innovate ABQ initiative, a planned high-tech research and development zone at Broadway and Central that could help turn the city’s core into a bustling center for technology-based economic growth.

The UNM Board of Regents authorized the university’s Science and Technology Corp. in June to move forward with acquisition, pending final agreements with the state Environment Department and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. to hold UNM harmless for potential contamination at the site.

Kuuttila said those agreements are now complete. And, on Monday, regents approved a $2 million loan from the UNM Foundation to purchase the property. That money will be repaid with $2 million in city funding, which has been delayed pending a final memorandum of understanding about administrative and development responsibilities at Innovate ABQ.

Remaining property costs are covered by a $3 million donation from New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union and $1.5 million from the U.S. Commerce Department. Regents also approved $800,000 last December to cover master planning at the site, to be jointly managed by the Georgia-based design firm Perkins+Will and Dekker/Perich/Sabatini in Albuquerque.

“Master planning will begin in August and finish by year-end,” Kuuttila said. “A lot of decisions must be made about existing buildings, and about new buildings and infrastructure needed at the site.”

UNM President Bob Frank praised the project’s rapid advance.

“It’s really encouraging that this project has gone from an idea to a land purchase in only 18 months,” Frank said in a statement. “It speaks to the power of partnerships and what we can do when the public and private sectors work together in an effort to benefit all.”