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Office to apartments play in Uptown

newuseA four-story, 77,647-square-foot office building in the center of Uptown has been offered for sale as a residential conversion opportunity, a real estate play that could be a harbinger of things to come in the Albuquerque metro area’s beleaguered office market.

“We’ve had this collision of a depressed office market, which I think will take a long time to recover, and the Uptown Village apartments that are fully occupied with a waiting list,” said John Lewinger, who is part of a local investment group that owns the building at 2424 Louisiana NE.

Opened in 2008 by Hunt Development Group, the 198-unit apartment property at 2222 Uptown Loop NE, next to Trader Joe’s specialty grocery store, is widely recognized as one of the metro’s top-performing apartment properties. It’s part of the stylish ABQ Uptown mixed-use development.

Founder of what is now Colliers International, a commercial real estate services firm that leases its office at 2424 Louisiana, Lewinger said the germ of the idea to “repurpose” the office building was partly his own personal circumstance.

An East Mountain resident for 25 years, the 69-year-old and his wife have been contemplating a move to an urban setting near restaurants, movies and shopping. He said the building at 2424 Louisiana would be a perfect place to have an urban apartment.

“The buzzword today is walkability,” said Jane Pilger, a broker at Colliers who, with Lewinger, is marketing 2424 Louisiana at an asking price of $6,395,000. “This property has walkability in spades.”

The conversion from office to residential would reduce the property’s parking requirement, thus opening up the 3-acre site to a possible 10,500 square feet of new retail buildings. Lewinger said he doesn’t have a usable estimate of the cost to do a conversion, since it would depend on how extensive it might be.

The repurposing of office buildings to residential or other alternative uses is gradually gaining momentum in metros around the country, said Albuquerque architect Dale Dekker, whose firm did some preliminary consulting on 2424 Louisiana.

The trend is based in part on buildings dating from the 1960s through 1980s – 2424 Louisiana was built in 1980 – gradually becoming obsolete for modern office uses. At the same time, the office buildings are in prime locations where housing likely would see demand, Dekker said.