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CNM Buys Old Plant

By Richard Metcalf
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          Central New Mexico Community College, in the midst of surging enrollment, has purchased the former Motorola plant at a bargain price for a "game changer" expansion into the north I-25 corridor.
        CNM paid $10 million, or $40 a square foot, in a foreclosure sale to buy the plant's two buildings at the southwest corner of Alameda and Jefferson NE.
        The college plans to spend an additional $6 million to renovate the smaller building on the 20-acre industrial campus to house working labs for programs in its School of Applied Technology. It has no immediate plans for the larger building, which is partially leased.
        "This is a game changer for us," said Diane Burke, the school's dean. "It's really the perfect spot. With the growth in enrollment, we're feeling the squeeze."
        CNM's enrollment this spring term is 27,386, the second-highest enrollment in the history of the school, college spokesman Brad Moore said. Enrollment tends to peak in the fall term, when a record 27,934 students enrolled in 2009.
        "Last year, CNM became the largest postsecondary institution in the state in terms of enrollment," he said.
        Dating back to 1981, the former Motorola campus was gradually built out to 247,000 square feet in two buildings and once provided 2,200 jobs. In 1999, Elkart, Ind.-based CTS bought Motorola's electronic components division and took over the property.
        CTS' operation shrank in the early 2000s, but the company continues to employ 100 to 150 people in making components for a variety of applications. CTS recently renewed its lease for 95,000 square feet in the larger, two-story 165,581-square-foot building at 4800 Alameda NE. The remainder of the building is vacant.
        "We're not in the landlord business, but we're honoring the lease with no changes," said Samantha Bousliman, CNM's chief communications officer, adding that the college has no plans or timeline for use of the larger building.
        The college is just getting started on plans to convert the smaller, 81,419-square-foot building at 4700 Alameda NE into labs for seven career and technical programs: architectural drafting, aviation, construction management, film, geographic information technology, landscaping and truck driving.
        An extensive renovation of the building is expected to begin by the middle of this year. Existing labs will be relocated in the summer of 2011 from both CNM's main campus and a 20,780-square-foot leased building on Candelaria NE. A projected 1,400 students will use the facility when programs get under way in the fall of 2011, Burke said.
        CTS had sold the entire industrial campus for an undisclosed price in 2006 to Rushmore Properties, at the time negotiating a lease to remain in 95,000 square feet in the larger of the two buildings. Chicago-based Rushmore had plans to modernize and reposition the property into a mixed office and industrial complex.
        When the recession began to rock commercial real estate, Rushmore attempted to sell some or all of the campus through the Albuquerque office of CB Richard Ellis, a commercial real estate services firm. The firm's investment team brought the property to the attention of CNM officials in October 2008, said team spokeswoman Patti Peixotto.
        "We knew it was going to be a great acquisition for CNM," she said.
        The entire property went into foreclosure in 2009 while college officials were still mulling the purchase. An original architect of the Motorola campus, Albuquerque-based SMPC Architects, evaluated the property's condition and found, "Overall the Alameda Business Center (property's new name) appears to have been adequately maintained and appears to be in reasonably good condition given its age."
        CNM closed on the purchase in January from the lender, Capmark Financial Group. Even at the heavily discounted price of $10 million, the purchase would have placed it among the top five commercial real estate deals in 2009 in the metro area, said Jim Chynoweth of CBRE's local office.

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