Publication: Rio Rancho Observer

Author: Kevin Hendricks. Staff Writer
Published: October 6, 2023

Urban Land Institute New Mexico, a leading organization dedicated to responsible land use and sustainable development, announced an initiative aimed at revitalizing underutilized sites within the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho districts Thursday afternoon.

This initiative, which began in 2022, has been a collaborative effort with Albuquerque city councilors and the city of Rio Rancho, harnessing the resources of ULI to bring forth innovative proposals for site redevelopment.

“The elements of a thriving community don’t come together randomly,” said ULI District Council Chair Rathi Casey. “Insightful planning and design are needed to ensure that the people, businesses, services, buildings, open spaces and infrastructure all work in harmony. ULI is a leading forum for cross-disciplinary discussions and research in planning at the urban and regional level.”

Over the past year, ULI New Mexico organized a series of collaborative design meetings which culminated in a showcase revealed at Intersections 2023.

Intersections 2023, a commercial real estate event that drew a big crowd at The Event Center at Sandia Golf Club Thursday, showed concepts for three sites, including Rio Rancho City Center.

Mayor Gregg Hull and City Manager Matt Geisel were both in attendance for the presentation.

Laura Anderson, principal/senior architect with Studio Southwest Architects, presented the project titled “City Center becomes a catalyst for connecting the community.” The goal of the project is to make City Center just that, the center of the City of Vision.

“City Center is at the geographic center of Rio Rancho. Right now, it seems to most people it’s way out in the middle of nowhere. It’s not; it’s in the center of a thriving city,” Anderson said.  “And being at the center of the city has this unique opportunity to really be a connector and a catalyst for further development. Our project wanted to focus on making connections with all these communities. It’ll be a destination that people can go to and not only go to the wonderful Events Center or get higher education, but also to be a thriving community that people can live in and shop in.”

Anderson opened the presentation with some background on the process to begin the project, which included a rapid-fire design session in Albuquerque and a visioning session with the city of Rio Rancho, crew and Studio Southwest at Campus Park.

Currently, City Center is home to City Hall, Campus Park, Rio Rancho Events Center, Hewlett-Packard, Broadmoor Senior Center, UNM Health Sciences Rio Rancho Campus, CNM Rio Rancho Campus and Sandoval Regional Medical Center.

The site plan created by Studio Southwest includes:

  • Multifamily (four-story apartments with 214 housing units on four acres)
  • Office/retail (three-story building on four acres)
  • Mixed use (three-story retail/apartments with 186 housing units on 6.2 acres)
  • Industrial flex labs (two- and three-story on 14 acres)
  • 7.5 acres for green space and parks

“A special feature that we wanted to make sure we included was a dog park as well as recreational space,” Anderson said. “Again, creating community and helping with the connectivity for the community. We have a central plaza for people to gather in and also increase their well-being with highly recreational green space.”

The project would also focus on making King Blvd. “very urban” and creating plazas and spaces for recreation.

“Studio Southwest Architects did an incredible amount of work on the design, all pro bono,” Jeanie Springer Knight, partner at Springer5 Investments, said. “Without the tremendous support and direct involvement of Mayor Hull, City Manager Geisel and staff, this never could have happened. Rio Rancho stands apart when it comes to new development projects for this reason.”

Hull said the city is very excited about the project but it depends on an investor stepping in and funding the project. The cost of the project was not disclosed.

“With Rio Rancho, the theme has been connectivity,” Hull said. “How do we stitch it all together? How do we make it flow better? How do we utilize the infrastructure that’s there and what are the infrastructure investments we need to make to make sure that we are connecting the community and making it a community where we can live, work, play and do all the things we want to do. So we’re very excited about what’s going on here.”