Commercial real estate representatives got a glimpse of the future Monday, and it’s decidedly creative.
Buildings that blend traditional office/retail space with room for creative industries will help drive more economic growth in the years ahead, according to a panel of speakers at the monthly luncheon of the New Mexico chapter of NAIOP The Commercial Real Estate Development Association.
Representatives from Meow Wolf, the Creative Startups business accelerator and 3 Sisters Kitchen highlighted some of the ways the creatively employed — artists, jewelery makers, digital designers and foodies — may be potential users of business spaces.
In Meow Wolf’s case, an investor seeded the Santa Fe enterprise with a $800,000 loan, which led to the purchase of a vacant former bowling alley. The space has been converted into a multi-use art complex. That fired an additional $3 million in financial backing to create exhibits and cover other expenses to launch the business. The Meow Wolf Art Complex welcomes locals and tourists alike to take part in fun, enriching art experiences, workshops and community activities, CEO Vince Kadlubek said.
In the past 10 months, Meow Wolf has become one of the top tourist draws in Santa Fe, generating $5 million in gross revenues and employing 90 people.
While it has plans for sites in Austin and Denver in the next few years, “we want to keep (most of the creative) jobs in New Mexico,” especially exhibit assembly, said Kadlubek. Indeed, Kadlubek told the NAIOP crowd he needs to find light industrial space for the company’s future Albuquerque operation.
He also said the company plans to monetize Meow Wolf intellectual property, such as clothing, video games and interactive toys. “All of these will be coming out of this crazy Meow Wolf engine,” he said.
One challenge for the growing company in Santa Fe has been the lack of affordable housing.
On the food front, The DowntownABQ MainStreet Initiative, with the Downtown Growers’ Market, is building a community kitchen at 115 Gold SW that’s committed to local sourcing, sustainable practices and helping culinary entrepreneurs get their products to market, said Anzia Bennett, founder of 3 Sisters Kitchen.
Tom Aageson, co-founder of Creative Startups business accelerator, said the Santa Fe nonprofit helped launch 840 businesses in the state since it was founded in 2007. With rigorous online seminars, lots of hand holding and cheerleading from mentors, and financial support from foundations and investors, the business success rate is 90 percent, said Aageson.