Revitalizing downtown Albuquerque: How old hotels are finding new life
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency is in charge of revitalizing downtown Albuquerque’s curb appeal. This year, the MRA focused on getting more people to live downtown.
“It’s a long progression to get to the point that it’s gonna be a vibrant downtown,” said Steve Vatoseow, the owner of Lindy’s Diner.
Vatoseow has seen the area change over the 60 years he’s managed his family’s restaurant. Though the colorful facade of the restaurant has remained, he says crime has plagued the area and caused it to take a turn for the worse.
City officials are focused on that, hoping to return downtown to its former glory.
“One of the projects we’re really proud of, that we’ll be opening soon, is the Imperial Hotel here,” said Terry Brunner, the director of the MRA.
The Imperial Inn on Central and High has seen its fair share of crime over the years. Come late January, it’ll become the latest apartment complex to open under the city’s MRA.
Renderings show a coffee shop and several retail spaces will also open in the front end of the property.
“Really hoping that, bit by bit, we draw more people in Albuquerque to downtown, and make it family-friendly. We want to give people things to do during the day, housing opportunities, and places to shop,” Brunner said.
Transforming old, dilapidated hotels along Central into housing is one way to accomplish that.
Villa Agave opened to residents earlier this month. The historic Seventh Street building was transformed into 15 market-rate housing units.
Brunner says these projects tackle two issues at once.
“Once you have people around, you have far less of a criminal element going on,” Brunner said.
Not to mention, a livelier nightlife.
“Really, that’s a focus on downtown, with a lot of really nice events, block parties over last year, and the start of the rail trail project,” Brunner said.
Brunner says the Rail Trail will start to take form late next year. Once it does, he expects it to be a game-changer for the downtown social scene.
For business owners like Vatoseow, they can only wait and see what the future has in store for downtown Albuquerque.
“It’s changed but it’s still, you know, the heartbeat of the city. And we have to do whatever we can to bring it back the way it was,” Vatoseow said.