ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A lot has changed in downtown Albuquerque in the past 60 years. With a visit to the Albuquerque Museum’s online photo archives, one can see a glimpse of what was going on back in the 1960s.

(Core Development Plan for Side Wide Project ca. 1966/Courtesy Joe McKinney.)

Downtown Albuquerque in the 60s saw a shift in focus. With the opening of Winrock Shopping Center in March of 1961 along Louisiana Boulevard and Interstate 40, the downtown area became less of a hub of activity due to shopping.

“Downtown was starting to, in the mid-60s, was starting to lose many of its commercial [businesses] like H. Cook’s Sporting Goods and so on and so forth,” said retired Emeritus University Planner for the University of New Mexico Joe McKinney. “Woolworths, Kresge’s, even JCPenney’s – a lot of those were going too.”

So, McKinney says, the city planners were tasked to basically give people a reason to go downtown. They came up with the Side Wide project, which widened sidewalks, allowing for street trees, street furniture, and bus pullouts. The plan included three areas:

  • The District – including the area of Albuquerque’s economic influence.
  • The Frame – the part of Albuquerque immediately surrounding the Central Business District.
  • The Core – Albuquerque’s Central Business District.

“Denver was doing something along the same lines with Larimer Square and their downtown area to entice people,” says McKinney. “What happened to us is that many of the older structures, which would be considered historic, were removed during that urban renewal purge to get rid of the old buildings, put in temporary parking lots, and then rebuild – and of course, some of the rebuildings never happened.”

What did happen was the malling of 4th Street between Central and Tijeras Avenues and the addition of trees and furniture along Central. McKinney says the majority of the city’s plans for downtown in the 1960s were either short-lived or never put into place for various reasons – both economic and political.

In 2022, Albuquerque’s downtown area has multiple reasons to stay past the 5 p.m. quitting time with music venues, comedy theaters, dance clubs, bars, and places to eat – a far cry from what things were like back in the 1960s. “[Downtown] was an interesting place during the day but at night…they rolled up the sidewalks.”

View Photos of Downtown Albuquerque in the 1960s

Find out more in the Albuquerque Museum’s online photo archive.