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Innovate ABQ master plan starting to take shape

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The master plan won’t be ready until next February, but a broad design vision for Innovate ABQ and the surrounding areas that will form the city’s planned Innovation District Downtown is rapidly taking shape.

Perkins & Will, the design firm creating the master plan, presented the basic strategies now guiding its planning and development of Innovate ABQ to the University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents on Friday.

Emerging plans include new street development and re-alignment of existing roads in and around the seven-acre First Baptist Church site where Innovate ABQ will be located to make that area highly accessible and pedestrian friendly. UNM purchased the church site last July.

Plans for converting the old First Baptist Church property at Central and Broadway into an innovation district are starting to take shape. UNM regents were presented with several development scenarios Friday, including the one at top. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Plans for converting the old First Baptist Church property at Central and Broadway into an innovation district are starting to take shape. UNM regents were presented with several development scenarios Friday, including the one at top. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Design plans also outline measures to better interconnect the site with targeted development areas along Central Ave. from East Downtown to the University of New Mexico to make the whole Innovation District more integrated and inviting.

The goal is not just to build out the church site itself, but to facilitate the emergence of a broad high-tech research and development zone where people can live, work and play.

“They’re taking into account the entire ecosystem to outline opportunities and challenges and identify areas where developers can come in to build out not only the seven-acre site, but the whole Innovation District,” said UNM Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila.

The full master plan will be finished in February and will include detailed recommendations and planning criteria for the core site, said David Green, the Perkins & Will principal leading the project.

“The goal is to break the site into blocks with different development scenarios for each one,” Green said. “It will include baseline guides regarding building structure, parking and so forth, plus detail on public rights of way, as well as interconnecting infrastructure for pedestrians, cars, bikes and even street ways that cross the rail line into Downtown.”

The firm is creating a variety of development scenarios so as to not lock UNM into a single strategy. But one common theme is road development and re-alignment, including proposed construction of a new stretch of Copper Ave. to run directly across the property from east to west. That would incorporate either an underpass or overpass at the west end that crosses the railroad into Downtown.

Another street would run straight through the center of the site from north to south connecting Tijeras Ave. next to the Convention Center with Central Ave. And, the firm proposes realigning Tijeras, which is now one-way going east, to make access in and out of Innovate ABQ easier, Green said.

The roadways would divide the site into four development blocks.

“The site is really the size of four city blocks,” Green said. “It’s too big, so we’ll add roads or streets to bisect them.”

Regents asked for cost estimates on developing the site, something Perkins & Will will provide in February, when they present the full master plan.

UNM expects private developers to pick up much of the cost.

“Perkins & Will is developing a plan that makes it very doable to get private investors interested to minimize the public investment, which has always been our goal,” Kuuttila said.

As for broader development in the Innovation District, the plan won’t provide detailed recommendations as with the core site, but it will identify opportunities to make targeted zones, such as the Rail Yards, more inviting and pedestrian friendly.

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