Recently, the Rio Rancho Observer published a story titled “Redevelopment Opportunities for Rio Rancho City Center Revealed.” It covered the highlights of an initiative that began in 2022, when Urban Land Institute (ULI) New Mexico, a leading organization dedicated to responsible land use and sustainable development, announced a groundbreaking challenge aimed at revitalizing vacant or underutilized sites within Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. ULI engaged ABQ city councilors and the city of Rio Rancho to pitch sites for development, using unique ULI resources to champion innovative proposals for their site’s development.

All nine ABQ districts and the city of Rio Rancho submitted a site for consideration. The top three advanced, given their potential to positively impact the surrounding community and create new economic opportunities. Rio Rancho was one of the top three. Their two, vacant land parcels (36 acres) on King Blvd. provided close proximity and connectivity to Rio Rancho City Hall, Campus Park, the Rio Rancho Events Center, UNM HSC, UNM SRMC, CNM and HP.

As a member of ULI’s board, I was on the sub-team that created the initial challenge and then prioritized the 3 that would progress to full design. I eagerly raised my hand to be the coordinator of the cross-disciplinary design team for City Center, so I had a front-row seat throughout this process.

What put Rio Rancho in the top three? And why was I not surprised to see it happen?

• Theirs was the most compelling application

• Mayor Hull, city manager and staff actively participated in the initial kickoff, the visioning session at Campus Park, and the design charrettes.

• Finally, Mayor, Mr. Geisel and RR staff made it a priority to attend the event where a new, innovative design for City Center was unveiled to 250 commercial real estate professionals.

Gregg Hull has a vision for his city, and brings an entrepreneurial spirit to his work as mayor. He’s present and leads thru hands-on participation. We’ve seen the city councilors and city manager use creative financial tools and a pro-development mindset to guide the city’s progress. We’ve seen the city demonstrate its culture of public/ private partnerships. It’s remarkable and sets Rio Rancho apart. ULI believes putting the City Center site in the spotlight will continue to tell the story of “why Rio Rancho.”

Jeanie Springer Knight

Urban Land Institute board member