City hopes to redevelop downtown Central Avenue

Updated: 06/17/2014 5:55 PM | Created: 06/17/2014 5:53 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Albuquerque city planners are hoping to kick-start a rebirth of Central Avenue Downtown by trying something that worked just a few years ago, just a few blocks away.

It worked for East Downtown – they call it "Edo" - and now they want to try it in Downtown itself – a big public/private project that could sprout new businesses and create new jobs along the Route 66 corridor.

Right now it's just a parking lot at First and Central, but planners see cafes and shops and clubs and a new hotel – a "premier entertainment hub" that will draw people to the urban core and inspire new development downtown. After all, a similar ambitious project had terrific results right across the railroad tracks in "Edo". It all started with the transformation of the long-vacant old Albuquerque High School into condos and lofts.

"We started seeing an influx of new businesses," said city planning director Suzanne Lubar. "Now we have some wonderful lovely restaurants and other businesses and refurbished homes all around that property."

In fact the restaurants and shops and salons are still spawning up and down Central between I-25 and the railroad tracks, in what was once a seedy crime-plagued slum. Just ask any Edo business owner about it.

"I believe it's because of the lofts next door, the old Albuquerque High," said Richard Whitener of Route 66 Cleaners. "That was the reason I came to put my business in this area, because I knew there was potential for growth."

"It's community building," said Joseph  Simonson, who works at a popular restaurant in Edo. "It's really just setting up the infrastructure and really just setting up a place that meets the needs of the community, that has a strong word of mouth."

Edo's got it. Why not Downtown?

Don't expect shovels in the ground at that "entertainment hub" site for another 18 months or so. It will take time for developers to draw up proposals, and more time for the city to choose a developer and select a design.

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