You could say Las Cruces, N.M., is under siege. Between the expansion of local military installations and repeated appearances on national “Best Places” lists, the City of Crosses is being invaded by hordes of military families and active seniors. “Currently, 50 percent of Las Cruces' net population growth is due to in-migration,” says Matt Kenney, a principal with local developer Denton Ventures. “Las Cruces has become a popular retirement location, and the surrounding military bases are staffing up. Both groups need housing, which has led to an increase in land development and home construction.”
Growth at the White Sands Missile Range and the Holloman Air Force Base is driving development of housing and retail for military families on the northeast side of town. Appealing to those drawn by Las Cruces' placement on Forbes' lists of Best Places to Retire (2005) and Best Small Places for Business and Careers (2007), new master-planned communities surround the city. Though most of the large-scale development is outside the city's center, a $34 million downtown development plan will fund a new city hall and civic plaza, plus renovations and repairs to Main Street properties.
All the growth is good news for the city, where the economy had been flagging. “It still has a per-capita income of barely 60 percent of the national average,” says Jim Peach, a business and economics professor at New Mexico State University, one of the city's largest employers. “Now, Las Cruces has reached the threshold size at which national firms—especially retail—take a serious look at the area.”
From 1990 to 2000, the city grew by 20 percent; 2008 estimate: 102,845. Annual job growth is 1.9 percent.
Class A space: $21.50/s.f. (average) on 10.6 percent vacancy.
Median home sale price in 2007: $161,600.
- Proximity to Mexico
- Climate/recreation areas
- Military bases
- Managing growth
- Long-term water supply
- Expanding local economy beyond military and university
Spaceport America—the first purpose-built spot in the U.S. for the nascent commercial space industry (Virgin Galactic is a partner)—exists mostly on paper but could drive $112 million in construction spending. “It's fair to expect it will play a role in our local economy” in the next 10 years, says Denton Ventures principal Matt Kenney.