ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The University of New Mexico has talked about the idea for years: making the area near The Pit and University Stadium an entertainment district where people could watch a game, shop and eat.
But now those plans have hit somewhat of a roadblock and UNM is being forced to scale back its vision.
UNM hired Cleveland, Ohio-developer Fairmount Properties a few years ago to come up with a plan for all of their empty arena-area land. Now, it says the two groups are parting ways because they can’t agree on profits.
While UNM officials promise something will still happen, they’re looking at a smaller scale.
“There’s a lot of student, a lot of activities out there,” said Jamie Koch, member of UNM’s Board of Regents and someone who has been closely tied to the development.
Most everyone has seen the signs by now. Big billboards that have made big promises in the south UNM campus for major commercial development on all of that empty land near the Lobo Village Apartments, The Pit and UNM’s host of sports complexes.
“This south campus is so important to get developed,” said Koch.
While Koch still believes the 43-acres of arena-area property will still be a big deal, but his vision for it is changing.
I would’ve hoped it would have happened sooner but it doesn’t look like it’s going to,” said Koch.
UNM and the university’s development arm, Lobo Development Corporation, is now cutting ties with Fairmount Properties, the developer they hired to put restaurants and shops on along UNM land on Avenida Cesar Chavez, University and Gibson.
Koch, who’s also the chairman for Lobo Development, says the deal wouldn’t have been profitable enough for the university or the developer.
“They wanted to have public financing which we couldn’t do, we were going to put $10 million into the project, we needed to get a return of at least $800,000 a year to do that,” said Koch.
So what happens now? UNM says its biggest plan for stores and a discount anchor is on hold indefinitely. The plan was to build that out on land near University and Gibson.
“Right now I do not think there’s a good market for that,” said Koch.
Instead, UNM is thinking smaller. They’re now focused on putting restaurants along Avenida Cesar Chavez on the west and east sides of Lobo Village.
“I think it needs to be restaurants, and right next to Lobo Village is a big track,” said Koch.
There’s also a chance of building out in University Stadium’s parking lot.
“Developing a restaurant in there some sort of a key sports bar-sports restaurant right on the corner, the athletic department believes they could give up a portion,” said Koch.
UNM says the Lobo Development Corporation is still working on a plan for restaurants on the smaller parcels of land. Koch says some restaurants have showed interest in building there but they won’t say which ones. They hope to have a deal with at least one restaurant by the end of the year.
Late last year, former Lobo star Brian Urlacher’s name was tied to a possible sports bar in the area. UNM says they’re still talking to him about that.