Muhamed Abdelhack covers business and economy for The Paper. He is a communications and journalism graduate of UNM.

Route 66 is one of North America’s most famous highways. It stretches approximately 2,448 miles and is host to all sorts of quirky attractions. Here in New Mexico, “The Mother Road” also crosses right through Albuquerque’s Central Avenue and the Historic Nob Hill neighborhood, complete with neon lights and eclectic shops. Nob Hill has served Albuquerque as a place for people to meet friends, eat, drink \and browse the various antique shops. Lately, however, the retail community has seen some bumps in the road, and businesses have suffered as a result.

“The biggest factor that started it all was the ART project,” said Clay Azar, president of the Commercial Association of Realtors New Mexico. “It completely disrupted the walkability factor of Nob Hill and killed businesses during construction.” Azar is, of course, referring to the Albuquerque Rapid Transit, the bus system initiated by Mayor Richard Berry. “Timing is important to remember when thinking about Nob Hill’s decline,” said Azar. “First the ART, then COVID, now hiring challenges. And all the while, crime has been lurking in the background.” Azar is not alone in his assessment of the impact that the ART project had on Nob Hill. Christina Rhoderick, a qualifying broker with Rhoderick Realty LLC, believes that, of the challenges that Nob Hill has seen over several years, the one-two punch came from the construction of the ART project followed by the impact of COVID. “Things were just starting to gain momentum last year,” said Rhoderick. “Then COVID hit. Unfortunately, some businesses had to close, and some owners of long-time establishments decided it was time to retire.” But out of the ashes, a phoenix shall rise.

As COVID restrictions continue to ease and businesses welcome back patrons, vacant retail spaces in Nob Hill are finding new tenants. When asked if the commercial market in Nob Hill is showing any sign of return, Azar, who currently knows of three new lease negotiations for the Nob Hill area, responded enthusiastically. “Absolutely. It’s already happening, and many can already see it beginning to rise!” Landlords have been working with existing tenants while the availability of key storefronts has given way to expansions from existing businesses and brand new openings. Several high-profile properties in Nob Hill are also under consideration for new restaurants. Additionally, an old Urban Outfitters storefront was recently converted by the city, along with other partners, into the Q Station, a Space Age-themed work and meeting space for professionals in the energy and aerospace industries. “There was a lot of momentum in our economy before COVID hit,” said Rhoderick. “That energy didn’t dissipate but has been bottled up for over a year. And businesses who made it through will be the beneficiaries of all of that pent-up demand.”

The planned construction of several multifamily housing units in the area will also help in Nob Hill’s revitalization. “The sheer number of bodies it is going to bring to the Central corridor is going to have a positive effect on any business that opens between Nob Hill and Downtown,” said Rhoderick. If that’s true, Nob Hill will be host to new businesses and has the potential to come back even better than before.

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Muhamed Abdelhack covers business and economy for The Paper. He is a communications and journalism graduate of UNM.

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