A rainforest has sprung up in the middle of New Mexico’s high desert, adding new life to Albuquerque’s downtown. City, county, state and federal officials today joined The University of New Mexico and its private partners in cutting the ribbon to officially open the new Lobo Rainforest Building at the Innovate ABQ site at Broadway and Central.
Terry Laudick, chair of the Innovate ABQ board of directors and president of Nusenda Credit Union, said, “We are excited for this catalyzing event. The Lobo Rainforest marks the first of many exciting developments on Innovate ABQ’s seven-acre site. Phase by phase we are making progress in our vision to create a vibrant and inclusive innovation district at Albuquerque’s core focused on supporting diverse entrepreneurs, from high-tech to main street and micro-enterprise.”
The $35 million, 160,000-square-foot six-story facility at the old First Baptist Church site will house students, Innovate ABQ tenants, and UNM’s Innovation Academy (IA). The live, work, play concept with its combination of academic and entrepreneurial components is designed to drive innovation, education and economic development in New Mexico.
“We describe our Lobo Rainforest as human innovation ecosystem in which creativity, business acumen, scientific discovery, investment capital, and other elements come together in a fertile environment that nurture budding ideas so they grow into thriving, sustainable enterprises,” said Interim UNM President Chaouki Abdallah.
The ground floor of the building provides an interesting mix of tenants, including STC.UNM (STC)—the University’s technology transfer and economic development arm—the IA, a Nusenda Credit Union branch, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Technology Engagement Office, Sandia National Laboratories, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Group and several startup companies housed in STC’s business incubator—the Cecchi Venture Lab.
Floors two through six are the living spaces for students. Spacious two bedroom, two bath apartment-style units include a full kitchen, living space, washer and dryer, and scenic views of the city.
Additional amenities include:
- Fitness center
- Designated parking area
- Steps from the ABQ Rapid Ride, the Rail Runner and the new ART system
- Great downtown arts and entertainment venues
UNM student Kyle Guin first heard about the project as a senior in high school and was drawn to the concept. “As a student I now have a place to live and work where I am surrounded by peers with similar mindsets and also some of our city’s most influential minds in the entrepreneur ecosystem,” he said. “I will proudly be launching my first product from my office at the Lobo Rainforest in September, and I couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else.”
CNM’s Fuse Makerspace, in the renovated former Noon Day Ministry building at the Innovate ABQ site, will open later this month, providing a space for makers of all kinds to come and create. Renovation of the existing 70,000-square-foot First Baptist Church building and education wing next to the Rainforest building is planned for later this year and will house labs, business incubator and event space.
See also Jessica Dyer’s August 25, 2017 article, “Sandia to put down roots at Lobo Rainforest Building,” from the Albuquerque Journal, reprinted below, May Ortega’s August 25, 2017 article and slide show, “Opening day: Take a tour of Innovate ABQ’s UNM Building (slideshow),” from Albuquerque Business First at https://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2017/08/25/opening-day-take-a-tour-of-innovate-abqs-unm.html.
Sandia to put down roots at Lobo Rainforest Building
By Jessica Dyer / Journal Staff Writer
Friday, August 25th, 2017 at 1:52pm
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandia National Laboratories is planting some roots in the Lobo Rainforest.
The lab on Friday announced it would lease space in the University of New Mexico’s Lobo Rainforest Building, giving it more direct contact with the Innovate ABQ effort in Downtown Albuquerque and providing better networking opportunities for its own employees.
Dave Douglass, deputy lab director, announced the new development during a ribbon-cutting that marked the formal opening of the $35 million, six-story building at Broadway and Central.
Douglass said Sandia will staff its 1,000-square-foot suite full time, helping to link entrepreneurs in the community to the labs’ capabilities and giving Sandia employees looking to start their own companies a place to access the resources and forge the connections they need.
Sandia has in the past facilitated those connections through occasional small business seminars, he said.
“Here it will be a permanent presence; they won’t have to just wait for one of those scheduled events. The door’s open. They can come in at any time and have that opportunity for impromptu, or just convenient, drop-ins as well as the interactions with the university and (fellow tenant Air Force Research Lab) by us being in all one place,” Douglass said in an interview. “It’s hard to think about what limits there are. It will provide some really limitless opportunities.”
Lobo Rainforest’s debut marks a major development in the larger Innovate ABQ project, a joint effort among numerous public entities and private partners, including the University of New Mexico, city of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and Nusenda Credit Union.
Former University of New Mexico President Bob Frank, who helped guide the project from its start about five years ago, said adding Sandia labs was long part of the vision.
“That was part of our dream all along, which was to bring together the innovation of Albuquerque,” he said in an interview. “What Sandia does and what Air Force Research Lab does is phenomenal, but you can’t get through the gates to those things. …With this, we achieved what we dreamed of, which is the opportunity for frequent interactions.”
In addition to hosting companies, the building includes the UNM Innovation Academy and residences for UNM students.
“Phase by phase, we are making progress in our vision to create a vibrant and inclusive district at Albuquerque’s core focused on supporting diverse entrepreneurs, from high-tech to main street and micro-enterprise,” Terry Laudick, Nusenda Credit Union president and Innovate ABQ board chair said in a news release.