ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Milk, bread, eggs and … a pint of Monks’ Ale?
Abbey Brewing Co. has confirmed it will open its first taproom as part of the new Downtown Albuquerque grocery store project. The brewery, which makes its beer at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu as well as in Moriarty, is one of three local businesses that confirmed this week their plans to join Silver Street Market in the nearly complete Imperial Building. The other two are restaurants: Crackin’ Crab Seafood Boil and a variation of Sophia’s Place.
The three will occupy ground level space at the four-story, mixed-use building at Second and Silver SW. That leaves just four commercial suites available, and the developer said a leasing deal is close for the largest among them.
Abbey General Manager Berkeley T. Merchant said the taproom will go by the name The Monks’ Corner and provide the brewery a much-desired link to customers that it hasn’t had, given its previous focus only on production and packaging. It means getting “that interaction and feedback” directly from its consumers on a daily basis, rather than just at festivals.
“It’s big news for us,” he said of the taproom, the first of what will be more. He said Abbey already is looking at other properties around Albuquerque.
The Monks’ Corner, at 1,800 square feet, will operate in partnership with Sophia’s Place owner Dennis Apodaca and his team, who will be in 1,500 square feet next door. The name of the restaurant hasn’t been settled, said Cecilia Schmider, a partner in the venture.
Though it will share elements with the original Sophia’s Place, she said it will have its own identity. It will serve what she calls “neo New Mexican food” that reflects Apodaca’s take on the state’s various culinary influences. Plans include some dishes designed to complement Abbey’s beers.
Merchant said the brewery had been seeking space for its first taproom for the last four years. A consultant it hired to analyze the market concluded that the Imperial Building was the ideal fit.
“We definitely fell in love with the demographics and growth potential of the area,” Merchant said, adding that the consultant told him, “If you don’t put this taproom here, you’re crazy.”
Downtown’s evolution also won over the owners of Crackin’ Crab, who picked the Imperial Building for the third location of their budding seafood boil chain. (A fourth is already planned for Winrock.)
Co-owner Rack Mingkhamsavath said he’s impressed by the progress he’s seen in the area over the years.
“We wanted to be part of it,” he said. “We can see all the apartments and condos coming in. (Downtown) is way different than before.”
The Imperial Building is bringing more residential units. Co-developed by Geltmore LLC and YES Housing, it features 74 rental apartments above about 23,000 square feet of retail. Geltmore’s David Silverman said construction should wrap next month and the commercial tenants can begin their own buildouts. Openings are expected to happen this summer.
Commercial real estate broker Richard Gallegos, who represents Abbey and Crackin’ Crab, said the Imperial’s commercial tenants represent “the next push of Downtown development.”
“We believe that this concept is the latest proof that Downtown has reached critical mass — the point where there are now enough residents, ongoing building projects, planned concepts and overall belief that Downtown Albuquerque provides great amenities as well as a desired sense of place,” said Gallegos of Sperry Van Ness Team Southwest.
Kelly and Rob Ortman, the couple behind Silver Street Market, said they expect to share customers with their forthcoming neighbors.
“It’s exciting,” Kelly Ortman said. “We’re happy that other people are believing in this project like we are.”
The $18 million development is the result of a complex public-private partnership involving multiple entities, including the City of Albuquerque, which contributed the land. Mayor Richard Berry on Friday said new commitments to the property further demonstrate its viability.
“It shows other investors that Downtown is a place you can have success,” he said. “As much as the mayor says it and people will listen to that, it speaks volumes when a project is this successful this early.”