Lobo Rainforest building rising at Innovate ABQ - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo Rainforest building rising at Innovate ABQ

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The six-story Lobo Rainforest building is going up at the Innovate ABQ site at Central and Broadway. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Come August, at least 95 percent of the 155 student apartments being built at the forthcoming Innovate ABQ research and development site Downtown are expected to be filled.

The University of New Mexico began accepting applications and reservations this month for students who want to live in the six-story Lobo Rainforest building now under construction at the old seven-acre Baptist Church property at Central and Broadway. That’s where UNM, the city, the county and private partners are working to create a modern, high-tech research and development district.

The $35 million,160,000-square-foot facility is rapidly rising and on schedule to open in August, say developers, who broke ground last July. It will house entrepreneurial development programs and startup businesses on the ground floor, and up to 310 students in two-bedroom apartments, priced at $674 a month, on the top five floors.

“The outer frame for the first five stories is already in place, and we’re working to frame the sixth floor now to top the building out by March,” said Jason Perry, managing director of the Florida-based Signet Development. “We’re doing electrical work and plumbing now on the lower floors.”

The new apartments, reserved for sophomore students and higher, are drawing a lot of interest, said UNM Institutional Support Services associate vice president Chris Vallejos.

“We’ve had a lot of inquires and a few contracts already signed,” Vallejos said. “Our target is at least 95 percent occupancy for the first year.”

The university will start actively marketing the apartments next month, focusing especially on students in UNM’s Innovation Academy. That program launched in 2015 as part of the Innovate ABQ project to offer students direct experience and real-world skills in entrepreneurship.

“We’re going gangbusters to get everything in place for August,” said Innovation Academy director Robert DelCampo. “We have 541 students in the academy now.”

The goal is for academy-connected students to live, work and play at the Innovate ABQ site. The academy will be housed on the Lobo Rainforest ground floor, alongside technology transfer programs run by UNM and some of the national laboratories, to help students and others build and grow new companies.

“It’s open for students to live there and participate in all the educational and entrepreneurial programming activities,” said UNM chief economic development officer Lisa Kuuttila.

After the Lobo Rainforest facility, the Innovate ABQ board will focus on the next phase of site development on the existing Baptist Church complex, a 71,000-square-foot facility on the site’s southeast corner, which will be remodeled into a mixed-use facility for business incubator and accelerator programs, high-tech labs, entrepreneurial support programs, and meeting and event spaces, said Innovate’s interim board president and chair, Terry Laudick.

“We have a good number of interested tenants, although we have no agreements in place yet,” Laudick said.

The board is also working to raise funds for Innovate programs and investment in startups that emerge at the site, said board member Jeff Apodaca.

“It’s all about private and public capital coming together for investment purposes to support entrepreneurs and create new companies and jobs,” Apodaca said.

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