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Microsoft's ABQ Cradle Is on the Market

By Richard Metcalf
Journal Staff Writer
    "Own a piece of history" is the marketing theme for selling the plain, one-story 1950s-era office building that Microsoft Corp. called home in the 1970s.
    The history part of the building is relatively cheap.
    The largely empty 25,000-square-foot Cal-Linn Building, which sits on 1.4 acres near the state fairgrounds, has been on the market for $1.3 million, or about $52 a square foot.
    "It's priced to sell," said Keith Meyer of Maestas & Ward Commercial Real Estate.
    Meyer came up with the "own a piece of history" campaign because of the Microsoft connection, but the building's sales tag is pretty much what you'd expect in an older neighborhood near the fairgrounds.
    "This isn't the Monte Vista Fire Station," he said. "There's nothing to show there of its history. There's nothing tangible."
    The Cal-Linn building sits at the northeast corner of Linn and California NE, about a block from the San Pedro and Central intersection. Its Microsoft connection was largely forgotten for two decades after founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen moved the company to the Seattle area— and destiny— in 1979.
    The building was fully leased to mostly mom-and-pop businesses in the late 1990s, said Peggy Daskalos, who with her husband once owned it.
    "It was a good little rental property for us," she said. "My husband knew the Microsoft connection, but we bought it purely as an investment."
    In 2000, a company controlled by Allen bought the building. Although it was never officially confirmed, Allen was said to be considering it as the site of a computer museum.
    In mid-2004, the building was back on the real estate market. The building and its location were not suitable for a multimillion-dollar investment in a museum, observers agreed.
    In November 2004, Allen did announce plans for a $5 million, 4,000-square-foot computer exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Old Town.
    The permanent exhibit, which is scheduled to open Nov. 18, is called, "STARTUP: Albuquerque and the Personal Computer Revolution."
    The Cal-Linn Building will have its moment in November during the hoopla for the museum exhibit's opening. Allen plans to erect a plaque at the southwest corner of California and Linn commemorating the founding of Microsoft in the building.
    The Cal-Linn Building has 12 suites and it is not clear which one Allen and Gates once occupied.
    The two, who were friends growing up in Seattle, were exploring the emerging technology of computer programming in Boston when, in 1975, they came to Albuquerque to work with MITS, a small computer maker.
    MITS appears in the 1975 Polk's Albuquerque City Directory as occupying the 4,011-square-foot suite at 6332 Linn NE in the Cal-Linn Building. The suite was listed as vacant the next four years.
    Microsoft or any related name does not appear in the city directory in the years from 1975 to 1979 when Allen and Gates were here.
    Speculation is that Gates and Allen either worked in the MITS space or rented a smaller suite elsewhere in the building.
    Meyer said he has been told the two worked out of a roughly 800-square-foot end unit that was either 109 or 111 California NE. City directories from the years in question list those units as occupied by a sewing machine center.
On the plaque
    The text for the plaque planned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen at Linn and California NE:
    Microsoft Inc., housed at this site from 1975 to 1979, was founded here by Paul G. Allen and Bill Gates, whose passion for technology and vision of "a computer on every desk and in every home" led to the development of Microsoft's groundbreaking software. Paul Allen and Bill Gates would like to acknowledge the important role that the city of Albuquerque played in the company's early development, offering an environment that stimulated creativity and encouraged entreprenurial spirit.