New Mexico State University has begun construction of a new Heritage Farm, which is expected to be at least partially open to students in late 2018.
The project is likely to include agricultural fields, a chile pepper research institute, park-like pedestrian walkways, an interpretive trail, a brewery, a winery, a restaurant and a hotel.
Heather Watenpaugh, the NMSU architect and campus planning officer, is overseeing the project for NMSU.
“The site should include an array of New Mexico crops, pecans, cotton, alfalfa, hops, grapes, chile peppers, grasses, onions and more,” Watenpaugh said. “A winery and brewery will be constructed to highlight the students who work in grape growing, wine development and the art of using hops and barley in beer brewing.”
The entire project aims to function as a sort of “gateway” that will welcome tourists and community members to campus. The Heritage Farm site spans 10 acres and will be located off College Avenue, southwest of the Las Cruces Convention Center and west of Union Avenue.
While many of the components of the Heritage Farm are still in the planning stages, construction has already begun on the hotel. A groundbreaking ceremony signified the start of this project on May 4, 2017.
The hotel, which will be a Courtyard by Marriott, is being developed by two Albuquerque businesses – Allen Sigmon, a property management group, as well as Sundaram Builders, a commercial construction business specializing in the hospitality industry. The two businesses have been working together on projects since 2012 when they converted an abandoned hotel into what is now University Village in South-East Albuquerque.
Although an out-of-state contractor was considered to develop the hotel, priority was put on sourcing a team out of New Mexico.
“We’re grateful they chose local people and in return we are using local financing, local contractors, local subs,” said Brad Allen, co-founder of Allen Sigmon. “It’s our desire that this money stays in New Mexico and benefits New Mexicans,” Allen said.
A large focus of the project is to provide experience and internships to NMSU students majoring in hotel, restaurant and tourism management (HRTM). The hotel, restaurant, brewery and winery are designed to provide internships and real-world experience to students going into HRTM.
“What’s really cool with this project is the fact that the university and us are partnering together to give the students an opportunity to come and get real-world experience in a real hotel,” said Lance Sigmon, the other co-founder of Allen Sigmon.
There are eight other Marriott Courtyard hotels operating in the state of New Mexico that will work in partnership with the Heritage Farm. This will give students the opportunity to not only intern during the year, but also be employed at the other locations statewide after graduation.
The Heritage Farm project provides more than just internship opportunities. It also has the potential to improve instruction inside the classroom.
“We’ll have the opportunity to bring people in from Marriot corporate,” said Prakash Sundaram, founder of Sundaram Builders. “(They) could come in and do a seminar. We would be in step with HRTM faculty and coming up with interesting guest speakers for their classes,” Sundaram said.
Sundaram also pointed out the hotel will feature meeting rooms and has the potential to be used to host conferences and seminars that could be beneficial to students.
Funding for the Heritage Farm will be sourced from various outlets
“The funding for several of the components that will make up Heritage Farm will come from outside developers, the city, grant funding, donors and the university,” Watenpaugh said. “In order to complete the entire Heritage Farm concept, additional gifts, local business and university funds will be necessary.”
A pedestrian bridge is being funded by donations from local businesses, and construction for the interpretive walkway will begin later this month.
The City of Las Cruces is also involved in funding this project, and a Las Cruces Convention Center expansion project has been discussed as a possibility. The expansion project is currently in the design phase.
The hotel portion of the project is being financed with private money. The hotel is expected to bring in revenue for the school, rather than strain the budget.
“The school is bringing the land, which we are ground leasing from the university,” Allen said. “(The University) will continue to receive a residual income so it’s actually a benefit. They’ll receive lease income for many, many years to come, which increases as our income increases.”
For more information on the Heritage Farm, contact Heather Watenpaugh at (575) 646-1360, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.