ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The University of New Mexico is considering paying millions of dollars to buy a church.
While it might sound strange, the university says investment could actually bring a long-sought "business incubator" hub right to downtown Albuquerque.
UNM is the latest group to consider buying the First Baptist Church property at the corner of Broadway Boulevard NE and Central Avenue. Both the city of Albuquerque and Albuquerque Public Schools had considered buying the property in the past.
However, those deals fell through, and the property has sat vacant for years.
“We could really create that live-work-play community there,” said Lisa Kuuttila, president and CEO of UNM.STC, also known as the Science and Technology Center.
Kuuttila said her department has been eyeing the purchase of the church since it went back on the market in August.
“It gives us proximity to the university and to downtown,” said Kuuttila.
The church could be the future site of UNM’s big vision, the "Innovate ABQ" business incubator.
“There could be literally tens to hundreds of small businesses that get started in an incubator like this,” said Kuuttila.
The idea is to give people cheap space and help to start new small businesses.
“It will also have regular office space, laboratory space, as these companies grow,” said Kuuttila. The idea could bring hundreds more people downtown, she added.
STC also sees dorms on the site with shops and restaurants nearby.
There are some hurdles to get over, though including a $7.55 million price tag for the property. That price doesn’t factor in any costs for construction needed inside.
“It depends on funding partners and how quickly we can move forward, but I think we're probably 18 months off from having some type of facility there,” said Kuuttila.
For the time being, STC says it will focus on trying to buy the "Aperture Building" at Mesa del Sol so that it can have immediate incubation space in addition to the church site.
"Our incubation space in Albuquerque is really at capacity,” said Kuuttila.
STC is hoping that the plan could lead to a new beacon for downtown Albuquerque.
"We could be on the order of 30 to 40 businesses per year that get launched ultimately from an incubation facility like that,” said Kuuttila.
UNM says it’s not sure if it will keep all of the buildings on the site if it moves forward although it says it recognizes the historical value of some of the property including the sanctuary.
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