Downtown Albuquerque—where neon still buzzes along Route 66 and drivers cruise past craft breweries and art galleries—is undergoing an unprecedented growth spurt. A mix of both modern and ancient, Downtown is the vibrant heart of the city.
Although the original town site in Old Town marked the city's beginnings, Downtown grew up around the railroads, providing a transportation and commerce hub.
Due to a realignment of Route 66 in the 1930s, the famous road runs in an east-west direction through Nob Hill, Downtown, and Old Town. Then and now, the connection of these three key neighborhoods is an essential vein for residents and visitors alike.
The railroad still brings people into downtown at the Alvarado Transportation Center on the Rail Runner and AMTRAK trains, and the Albuquerque International Sunport is less than 10 minutes away, providing ease of access to this bustling center hub.
The vintage feel and history, alongside modern amenities, gives the area a sense of place that is quite unlike any other--and it’s a feeling that is best experienced first-hand.
Albuquerque Convention Center
In an effort to give the Albuquerque Convention Center a look and feel that mirrors the city itself, the city completed a $25 million renovation of the complex in 2014. Improvements include: a new exterior facade; complete remodeling of the ballroom, including a new entertainment deck; installation of massive windows with panoramic views; and an updated atrium with a grand, welcoming fireplace. Additional upgrades include new flooring, wall and ceiling finishes, LED lighting and a completely updated kitchen.
Civic Plaza Sees Major Upgrades
The convention center’s glass Territorial style–facade harkens classic New Mexico architecture and overlooks Civic Plaza, the largest public space in the center of downtown, with a capacity of 20,000 people and a sizable performance stage. In recent years, updates to the space have included a large projection screen and sound system (perfect for free family movie nights held there each summer), refreshed stages, an interactive water feature, and a brand new playground. More shade and inviting leisure spaces beckon visitors to lounge during summer performances, special art and vendor markets, and many other major events.
One Central Open for Business
One Central, a mixed-use project in downtown Albuquerque, is officially open for business. Located on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and First Street, One Central features 68 studio and two-bedroom apartments, a 423-space parking garage, and houses several local businesses that occupy the ground-level space, including Urban Taqueria and other local businesses.
ABQ to Revitalize Historic Rail Yards
Once a bustling industrial complex dedicated to maintaining and servicing rail cars on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, the site’s old blacksmith shop now is home to the Rail Yards Market, held every Sunday morning from May through October, with holiday markets in December. The City of Albuquerque is taking over efforts to revitalize the historic Rail Yards. The City recently announced $1.2 million in grant funding to redevelop the property. Funding will help to improve the streetscape to connect the Rail Yards to Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, among other developments.
Hotel Andaluz Returns to its Roots with Hilton Rebrand
Hotel Andaluz's history began with the Hilton brand, and the downtown hotel has announced it will be tapping into its past with a rebrand. Legendary hotelier Conrad Hilton built his fourth hotel where Hotel Andaluz stands now, and the hotel has rebranded as Hotel Andaluz Albuquerque Curio Collection by Hilton. The Curio Collection by Hilton is an upscale collection with 70 hotels and resorts.
Downtown DoubleTree Unveils Multimillion-Dollar Renovation
The DoubleTree, a Hilton hotel, unveiled an $8 million renovation in a Southwestern contemporary style.
The project involved renovating all 295 guest rooms, including two presidential suites, and renovations to the front desk, fitness center and lobby. The hotel's restaurants, Lounge 201, Icon Bistro and Coffee 505, also received renovations, along with new menus.
Historic Central Avenue Hotel Set to be Renovated
The originally dubbed “Downtowner Motor Inn” located on Central Avenue in Downtown Albuquerque and known today as Hotel Blue, will complete a $22 million-dollar renovation from ARRIVE Hotels & Restaurants, a Los Angeles-based, boutique hospitality collective. Built in the 1960s, the property will adopt a new name, ARRIVE Albuquerque, upon completion. ARRIVE has plans to convert the ground floor into a new restaurant, bar and pool and anticipates the property will break ground by the end of 2020 and be operational by 2021.
The Restored El Vado Motel Opens on Route 66 in Albuquerque
This revitalized, historic property held its grand opening in July of 2018. When it initially opened in 1937, El Vado was one of the state’s first motels to greet Route 66 travelers. Today, the restored El Vado is a unique blend of historic character and charm, combined with modern comforts and amenities. The space not only features custom Mid-Century Modern furnishings and one of a kind local artwork, but a changing lineup of up-and-coming restaurants, the El Vado Taproom, featuring a rotating selection of New Mexican brews, and several local boutiques and shops—making it a must-visit destination within Albuquerque.
De Anza Motor Lodge Reopens
Development of the historic De Anza Lodge broke ground in November 2017 and is now leasing apartments to residents. The iconic Route 66 property has been closed since 2002 and is being rebuilt to house a hotel, apartments, restaurant and office space. As part of the $8.2 million renovation, the motel’s historic Zuni murals and artifacts will be preserved, along with its neon sign.
New Dual-Branded Hilton Homewood Suites Planned for East Downtown
The dual-branded hotel will be inhabited by a Hilton Garden Inn and a Homewood Suites with 90 rooms designated for Hilton and 80 for Homewood Suites. The hotel broke ground in March 2019 at the corner of Broadway and Central, and construction is expected to be complete in the spring of 2020.
Highlands Marriott SpringHill Suites Hotel Breaks Ground
A new Marriott hotel broke ground on Central Avenue across from Presbyterian Hospital in March 2019. The 118-room Highlands Marriott SpringHill Suites, which is being developed by Albuquerque’s Titan Development and Maestas Development Group, is nearly 93,000 square feet. The property will also be the second home of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of New Mexico, which will occupy the entire third floor and 20 rooms.
Albuquerque's innovative business climate is very entrepreneur-friendly. Alongside the University of New Mexico, Sandia National Laboratories, and Kirtland Air Force Base, a burgeoning startup culture flourishes. Forward-thinking businesses and entrepreneurs gather at the heart of the city near Central and Broadway, while the "Innovation Corridor" expands along Central Avenue from Downtown east to the University of New Mexico campus.
Innovation Central is an initiative to drive economic prosperity and modern business development in Albuquerque. It's a long-term strategic development project with the goal of drawing dynamic thinkers and entrepreneurs to the Rio Grande Valley.
Exciting new ventures that are part of Innovation Central and downtown revitalization include:
Downtown ABQ Lands New Craft Distillery
Hollow Spirits, a new craft distillery serving up seasonal drinks in a laid-back brewery atmosphere, officially opened its doors to guests in 2019. In addition to serving an array of tasty beverages, the distillery also offers a variety of health-conscious food options created by award-winning executive chef Tristin Rogers.
ABQ’s Brewery Scene Continues to Boom
As the first city in the nation to officially designate a Brewery District (located off I-25 near Candelaria), the city now has an official Downtown Brewery District as well. With 40+ breweries and taprooms in the metro area (and more on the way), Albuquerque has blossomed into an acclaimed craft-brewing city, with one of the highest numbers of breweries and taprooms per capita in the country.
Internationally-Renowned Turquoise Museum Reopens in Downtown Albuquerque
New Mexico’s popular Turquoise Museum has relocated to the 8,500-square-foot iconic downtown Albuquerque castle. The Museum, opened in 1993 by the Lowry family, houses what is believed to be the world’s largest collection of turquoise. The new museum is open and features exhibits including: the science and geology of turquoise; turquoise mining; turquoise around the world; hundreds of examples of turquoise jewelry; and an overview of imitation turquoise.