With its 74 apartments and grocery store, the new Imperial Building is a critical piece in the revitalization of downtown Albuquerque, N.M.

“It’s going to be a catalyst for spurring a more vibrant urban core,” says David Silverman, a principal at Geltmore, LLC, a family-owned real estate development firm behind the new property. “The intention of the project was a grocery store, and it was through low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) and affordable housing that we were able to put the project together.”

The Imperial Building brings 74 affordable homes and a grocery store to downtown Albuquerque, N.M. The $19 million five-story development is a critical component in the city’s revitalization plans.
Courtesy of Dekker/Perich/Sabatini The Imperial Building brings 74 affordable homes and a grocery store to downtown Albuquerque, N.M. The $19 million five-story development is a critical component in the city’s revitalization plans.

City leaders had long identified a need for a grocery store in the area. In addition to the 12,000-square-foot market, Silverman’s firm initially wanted to build market-rate housing as part of the project, but the financing didn’t pencil out.

The Albuquerque-based company then turned to the possibility of creating affordable housing with LIHTCs, which it had never done before, says Silverman. That led Geltmore to team with nonprofit YES Housing, an experienced affordable housing developer.

Working together, they were able to recently open the $19 million project, which gets its name from the Imperial Laundry Co., a prominent business that once occupied the block and served the community for many years.

The building's Imperial Apartments have 54 homes with rents set between 30% and 50% of the area median income. Twenty apartments are not restricted under the LIHTC program but will have rents that are set at about 10% below market prices, and 15 apartments are set aside for residents with special needs.

In addition to the housing, the new Silver Street Market finally brings a full-service grocery store to downtown.

The site’s prior uses, which also included a gas station, required a portion of the soil to be removed. The remediation cleaned the site and allowed developers to create underground parking for residents.

Designed by Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, the development achieves Enterprise Green Communities certification. It features a rainwater capture system and water-conserving fixtures. There’s also a large rooftop garden, where residents are growing fruits and vegetables, says Chris Baca, president and CEO of YES Housing.

His 26-year-old Albuquerque-based firm has built affordable housing across the state, including smaller rural communities. The Imperial Building is its first ground-up construction development in Albuquerque.

“We wanted to provide quality affordable housing and at the same time provide a stimulus for the neighborhood to reinvigorate itself,” says Baca, explaining that the new development helps bring families to the area.

The introduction of families is critical to supporting a grocery store and bringing in other amenities to the neighborhood, he says.

The team assembled several sources of funding to develop the affordable housing.

UnitedHealthcare through LIHTC syndicator Enterprise Community Investment provided $11.9 million in tax credit equity. The deal is part of $34 million UnitedHealthcare is investing in the state to build five affordable housing communities with 315 new apartments.

The New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority awarded the housing credits and provided a construction loan and a permanent loan source in the amount of $605,000 through the New Mexico Housing Trust Fund and Primero loan program. JPMorgan Chase is the construction lender and will provide a permanent loan in the amount of $1.3 million. The city of Albuquerque provided over $3.8 million in financing and a land donation value of $575,000. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas provided funds through the Affordable Housing Program (AHP) in the amount of $378,000. The county of Bernalillo issued Industrial Revenue Bonds that provide a property tax exemption and reduction in gross receipts tax on construction costs.

Silverman calls the effort a public-private partnership. “There were probably six or seven different public agencies that came to the table with either money, contributions, or time,” he says. “The future of development is public-private partnerships. This is a fine example of a lot of folks coming together to do something that a lot of people wanted.”