The Lobo Rainforest building will have its grand opening this month. The name—inspired by the idea of a biome—is a symbol and hope of what is to come to Albuquerque.
Ecosystem is a common metaphor used to describe the conditions in which businesses start and grow. And the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Albuquerque is expanding this month with the opening of the UNM Lobo Rainforest Building, the first building to be completed on the seven-acre Innovate ABQ site at the heart of Albuquerque’s new Innovation District.
Through partnerships between the University of New Mexico and public and private entities, a diverse and interdependent entrepreneurial ecosystem is on the rise. And while the Lobo Rainforest is the first building to open at Innovate ABQ, it will not be the last.
What is the Lobo Rainforest?
The Lobo Rainforest building is a hub for students, entrepreneurs and innovators. While it has space to house 310 students in 155 residences, the mixed-use building is also a new home for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Technology Engagement Office, the University of New Mexico’s Innovation Academy and STC.UNM, the University’s technology transfer and economic development organization.
The intent behind the co-location of research, academics, living spaces and entrepreneurial support organizations is to transform how students envision their future and the opportunities before them. And, as the Innovate ABQ site continues to develop, the vision for this transformation will extend to entrepreneurs and startups as well as more established companies.
Terry Laudick, the chair of the Innovate ABQ board of directors and president of Nusenda Credit Union, said, “The completion of the Lobo Rainforest is the first in a series of exciting developments on the Innovate ABQ site. Next, CNM’s Fuse Makerspace will relocate to the former Noon Day Ministries building, and we expect to start the renovation of the former First Baptist Church building later this year. Phase by phase we are making progress in our vision to create a vibrant innovation district at Albuquerque’s core focused on supporting diverse entrepreneurs, from high-tech to main street and micro-enterprise.”
What is an innovation district?
Innovation districts are a new urban model being implemented in many cities across the country. These districts align leading-edge companies and institutions and coexist with startups and incubators to create what this Forbes article calls a “self-perpetuating economic engine.” Essentially young talent is attracted to the area by the university; students develop talents and are connected with outside businesses and institutions; students begin to join and strengthen the businesses and institutions they’ve connected with, or head toward entrepreneurship; then that talent stays within the area and benefits further from talent development efforts… and the cycle goes on.
What’s next for Innovate ABQ?
The Lobo Rainforest building, which broke ground just over a year ago, marked the beginning of Phase I at the Innovate ABQ site. This phase will also include the relocation of CNM Ingenuity’s FUSE Makerspace and the makeover of the 76,000-square-foot former First Baptist Church building.
CNM Ingenuity’s FUSE Makerspace, which provides tools like 3D printers, laser engravers, bandsaws and vinyl cutters for people to develop their inventions, will move into the 13,000 square foot building in late August, and will host a formal ribbon cutting in the fall.
The next phase, Phase 1-B, will overhaul the church building, which includes the five-story tower, a two-story education wing and an auditorium. Innovate ABQ’s project manager Danny Dietz said he expects construction to start by the end of 2017, with an estimated opening of fall 2018.
Innovate ABQ has been a collective dream of Albuquerque’s for years, and the dream is becoming more of a reality each day.
The Lobo Rainforest’s Grand Opening will be held August 25, from 9 am to noon at the Innovate ABQ site on Broadway and Central.