Marble Development’s proposal is essentially a 1.4 acre plaza that will house a restaurant, a coffee shop and a taproom, according to a UNM press release. There will also be a stage for entertainment and live music before big events.
There is currently no estimated cost for the project, but Thomas Neale, director of financial transactions for LDC and director of UNM Real Estate, said the University itself won’t have to pay a single penny.
“There will be absolutely no cost to the University, it will all be through the ground lease,” Neale said.
The terms and conditions of that contract are currently being worked on by both parties. Neale said they hope to come to an agreement by mid-May.
Jabez Ledres, a junior majoring in athletic training, said the project has the potential to benefit UNM in more ways than one
“I think having an entertainment district is probably going to be cool for the students,” he said. “Obviously it will be something to draw people to UNM, and [it will] boost morale. We’ll have more to do around Albuquerque.”
At a time when the University is facing a budget crisis partially due to a drop in enrollment numbers, the project has the potential to not only generate revenue, but to attract students and sports fans alike to UNM.
ASUNM President Rachel Williams said the University will have to do some out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to making up an expected $3.6 million shortfall in the budget for next year.
“Academics haven’t been a great return on investment [for UNM]. We’re working on it, but we can see maybe more of a return on investment if we start putting money into things that accrue revenue, things that attract students to the University,” she said.
Williams, a senior, said she looks forward to how the plaza turns out.
“I’m kind of sad that I’m leaving because I think it’s going to be really exciting,” she said.
The area to be developed, on the corner of University Boulevard and Avenida Cesar Chavez, is currently used for parking for surrounding sports venues, including University Stadium and WisePies Arena.
The project is just one of many that comprise a master plan for South Campus development and renovation. Other potential future projects can be found at lobodevelopment.org.
Such plans, according to the LDC’s website, work towards “continue[ing] its mission of investing in UNM for the betterment of the students. Through its unique position as a private entity owned by the University, LDC has the support of the University and capability to create new successful developments in the future.”
David Lynch is a staff reporter at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.