Downtown Albuquerque—where neon still buzzes along Route 66 and drivers cruise past craft breweries and art galleries—is undergoing an unprecedented growth spurt. Public and private stakeholders have invested $200–$300 million in the district between 2016 and 2018. 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 $23 million renovation of the complex in 2014. Improvements include: a new exterior façade; 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.
The convention center’s glass Territorial style–façade harkens classic New Mexico architecture and overlooks Civic Plaza, where January 2018 updates include a large projection screen and sound system (perfect for free family movie nights held there each summer), refreshed stages, and an interactive water splash pad. More shade and inviting leisure spaces beckon visitors to lounge during summer Shakespeare on the Plaza performances or Truckin’ Tuesdays, when Albuquerque's premier food trucks gather to serve lunch.
Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART)
Downtown’s revitalization effervesces into other neighborhoods along the nine-mile Albuquerque Rapid Transit, which flows from the east to west side along dedicated bus lanes. ART is an electric-powered bus system—making Albuquerque the first in the country to run an eco-friendly system like it. Twenty subway-like platforms along the route will connect popular destinations like the ABQ BioPark, Downtown and Edo (East Downtown), the University of New Mexico, and Nob Hill. The line’s completion is slated for early 2018.
By spring 2018, the entertainment area One Central will transform the corner of Central Avenue and First Street with retailers, restaurants, entertainment and residences, and a 423-space parking structure. The parking structure is slated for delivery in November 2017, and the retail and residential portions will be delivered in the spring of 2018.
Route 66 Updates
Currently, there are plans in place to renovate original Route 66 hotel properties, including the historic El Vado Motel and De Anza Motor Lodge properties, the latter of which broke ground in November 2017. To really brighten things up, the City is offering incentives to business owners who add neon lights and signage, to reignite the vintage Route 66 look and feel.
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:
WESST Albuquerque: This small business development organization provides financial capital, training, and a state-of-the-art digital media studio with a special focus on incubating female-run businesses.