Saturday Spotlight: A Look at Route 66

Saturday Spotlight: A Look at Route 66

Vintage Map of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles
The famed Chicago-to-Los Angeles Route 66 looms large in American century history. It introduced travelers, Dust Bown refugees, and Beat era drifters to Tucumcari, Albuquerque, Grants and Gallup, New Mexico. While it may no longer be cherished as “America’s Main Street,” the historic route is still New Mexico’s main street in many towns. The most notable example is Albuquerque.

The “Mother Road” used to be synonymous with the desire to hit the open road. In Albuquerque, the Mother Road now signifies a pedestrian lifestyle that appeals to Millennials and Boomers who prefer to leave their cars at home. Many prefer to not even own one.

In Albuquerque, Central Avenue overlays Route 66 and traverses some of the city’s historic neighborhoods and shopping districts. It runs through downtown, uptown, Nob Hill and skirts the University of New Mexico’s campus and Old Town.

Albuquerque Central High was reconverted into Loft-style aparments for sale and rentAs Albuquerque spread out during the 60s, new shopping centers lured residents away from the city center and the downtown district began to suffer. It wasn’t until the revitalization of the KiMo Theater in the 1980s, that this drive toward sprawl began to abate. The soup-to-nuts makeover of this Art Deco theater gave birth to Central Avenue’s new identity as an entertainment and shopping district.

The real estate boom of the early and mid Aughts saw numerous downtown loft-style housing developments. Albuquerque Central High, abandoned in 1973 was among the first major residential housing complexes in the heart of downtown.

The effort continues to today. Numerous Central Avenue projects have broken ground, the most notable being the Imperial Building two blocks off Central Avenue at 205 Silver Street. A public-private partnership formed between the Gletmore Group, the City of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and others is converting this landmark into a mixed-use development. Once completed, it will house a 12,000-square-foot grocery store, offer 22,000-square-feet of retail space, and provide 74 apartments. Over half of these dwellings are designated for affordable housing. This project is predicted to increase the city’s walkability and enhance downtown Albuquerque’s Millennial cache. (More information is available at Albuquerque Business First’s Geltmore Group has more plans for downtown, August 22, 2014.)Downtown Albuquerque on Central Avenue with Kimo Theater in the background

We put together this Infographic on how the Mother Road has loomed large in American pop culture. The story isn’t over yet though. Albuquerque is currently writing the next chapter, and it look to be a page-turner.

Resources to Learn More

New Mexico Route 66 Association

New Mexico Tourism Association’s Route 66 Trail

Albuquerque Downtown Neighborhood Association

The Downtown Action Team

The Lofts at Albuquerque High

Geltmore, LLC