By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Journal Staff Writer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The clanking of hammers and buzz of drills will soon fill the old First Baptist Church building at Broadway and Central Downtown as remediation and remodeling work begins on the second phase of the Innovate ABQ research and development site.

Design work is now underway at the two-story sanctuary and five-story office tower behind it, both of which sit on the southeast corner of the old church site, Innovate ABQ Executive Director John Freisinger told the Albuquerque Economic Forum Wednesday morning. Remediation efforts will likely begin on those two structures before the end of this year, followed by interior remodeling.

As for the church building’s two-story west wing, which previously housed a parochial school, developers plan to tear it down and build an entirely new, five-story office tower in its place, Freisinger told Forum participants.

“In three years, there will be a new facade along Central as you drive into the Innovate ABQ Campus,” Freisinger said. “We won’t change the outside of the historically significant church sanctuary and office tower buildings, but we will construct a new glass office tower on the west side.”

Those projects form the next phase of Innovate ABQ, a seven-acre site that the University of New Mexico along with other public and private partners are building into a hub for entrepreneurship. The first phase concluded last summer, when UNM opened its $35 million, six-story Lobo Rainforest building on the northeast corner of the site, followed by the opening in October of Central New Mexico Community College’s FUSE Makerspace next door.

The Lobo Rainforest building now houses UNM’s Innovation Academy, startup companies, and tech transfer teams from UNM and the state’s national laboratories. Hundreds of students also live in 155 two-bedroom dorms on the facility’s upper five floors.

The three sections that make up the old First Baptist Church will serve different purposes, Freisinger said. The sanctuary, which includes a 400-person chapel, will be a community gathering place and welcoming entranceway into Innovate ABQ.

The office tower behind it will be converted into wet and dry labs for bioscience startups. And the newly-built glass-encased west wing will house nonprofits and community organizations, including startup incubator and accelerator programs.

“We’ve chosen to develop the old church building by treating each section of it differently,” Freisinger said. “Each section will have a different mission and a different methodology for building it out.”

Remediation and remodeling of the church sanctuary and tower will cost about $8.1 million, paid for with grants and loans from public and private sources, including $1 million from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, Freisinger told the Journal. The Innovate ABQ board has already raised most of those funds.

The new five-story west wing will cost about $23 million.

“The goal is to have at least the tower and the sanctuary ‘move-in ready’ by the fourth quarter of next year,” Freisinger said.

The photo shown:  Is An architect’s rendering shows a new five-story, $23 million office building at Innovate ABQ, which will replace the old parochial school at the site.

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