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Nob Hill Business Center, Albuquerque, USA

The impact of the automobile has been the single most important factor in shaping Albuquerque’s physical, cultural, and social landscape as we see it today. Travellers going east along Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, the old Route 66, past the railroad commercial and residential districts near Huning Highlands toward Nob Hill, can see evidence of the evolution of the automobile landscape in the historic urban fabric. Approaching the University of New Mexico, one begins to see one-story commercial storefronts built shoulder to shoulder at the sidewalk’s edge forming a continuous street wall. Continuing into Nob Hill, these neighborhoods developed around local business districts and the ability of residents and merchants to travel short distances for work and daily needs. As one reaches the end of the district, a visible shift in the treatment of the streetscape is evident at the Nob Hill Shopping Center.

In 1946, local developer DKB Sellers constructed the Nob Hill Shopping Center, New Mexico’s first drive-in shopping center, at the corner of Central Avenue and Carlisle Boulevard. The center is organized in a U-shaped layout with an interior parking lot facing Central Avenue. The shopping center represents a shift in the built form away from the pedestrian realm toward accommodating the increasingly prominent automobile. Mr. Sellers’ goal was to provide spaces for separately owned businesses with integrated, on-site parking in an architecturally unified building. The Nob Hill Shopping Center was the first major investment in significant commercial infrastructure outside of downtown. Many considered the Nob Hill Shopping Center to be too far away from the city core to be successful, because it was on the eastern edge of town. The center of town, however, was nearly filled to capacity by 1949, and the new shopping center garnered tenants such as Stomberg’s Men’s Clothing and Rhodes Supermarket.

Louis Hesselden, a man well known for his work designing many of the city’s public schools, was the shopping center’s architect. The Moderne style center has white-stuccoed walls, architectural neon, decorative brick courses, bands of terra cotta tile, and large expanses of plate glass display windows. Two pairs of decorative towers rise from the four corners.

Despite threats from shopping malls and other neighborhood centers, the Nob Hill Shopping Center remains an anchor in one of the most vibrant parts of the city. It was renovated in the early 1980s. Today, the center houses restaurants, specialty shops, and services. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 under an exception to the 50-year criteria consideration because of its exceptional significance and condition. The Nob Hill Shopping Center is located at the corner of Central Ave. and Carlisle Blvd. in Albuquerque, NM’s Nob Hill district. Visitors will find a number of restaurants, specialty shops, and services.

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