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 $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.
The convention center’s glass Territorial style–facade harkens classic New Mexico architecture and overlooks Civic Plaza, where 2018 updates included 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.
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, plans are underway to renovate original Route 66 hotel properties, including the historic El Vado Motel and De Anza Motor Lodge properties. 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.
Development of the historic De Anza Lodge broke ground in November 2017. The iconic Route 66 property has been closed since 2002 and will be 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. The entire project should take about 18 months, slating the reopening of the De Anza for summer 2019.
The revitalized, historic El Vado Motel 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.
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.