South of Albuquerque’s small but bustling airport, and east of the 300-year-old neighborhoods and junk yards that flank the Rio Grande for miles south of downtown, is a high mesa that the recession appears to have forgotten. On a recent winter morning, massive yellow earthmovers were busy carving an increasingly complicated network of roads into what just a few years ago was a featureless plateau stretching for miles. Truckloads of materials trundled up a two-year-old boulevard complete with elaborately painted overpasses, new desert-friendly landscaping, and a series of concrete and rock rattlesnake sculptures, each longer than a city bus, in the medians. At the top of the escarpment, armies of construction crews were putting the finishing touches on a solar equipment manufacturing plant, a financial services office complex, and a translucent glass “town center” that will eventually house retail businesses, a school, and offices for the developer, Forest City Covington. This is Mesa del Sol, one of the largest master planned new urbanist communities in the U.S. It will eventually be home to 100,000 people, a fifth of Albuquerque’s current population. continue reading

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