Phoenix and Las Vegas are the fastest growing markets in the Southwest, but residents are also pushing further east, leading to new development in New Mexico.

Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises is betting this growth will continue with development of a master-planned Mesa del Sol project — similar in size and scope to its ongoing work at the former Denver International Airport. Meanwhile, southern California's Culver Studios is taking advantage of New Mexico's attractive incentives for film production by building a 25-acre Albuquerque Studios complex, scheduled to open early next year.

“We'll have 3,000 to 5,000 jobs out there fairly quickly,” says Fred Mondragon, director of economic development for the city of Albuquerque. “We're talking with companies considering locating their headquarters here, with the goal of doubling the number that call Albuquerque home.”

The Albuquerque metropolitan area is expected to grow to a population of one million people by 2010, up from the 780,000 residents the city has today, according to Mondragon. “Forest City has raised the bar,” he says. “Planned growth is making all this happen in a high-quality environment.”

The 9,000-acre Mesa del Sol project is a public-private partnership of Forest City and the New Mexico State University Land Office, which owns the land. With about 30,000 residential units and up to 50,000 jobs at build out, this is not only the largest New Urbanist project attempted to date, but is also being built on sustainable principles, notes project planner, Peter Calthorpe, principal at California-based Calthrope Associates.

“This a big plus in getting a town center going, because it will create early demand for retail before rooftops,” says Harry Relkin, director of land development for Forest City, noting that the first residential component, which is part of a vertical mixed-use project, will not be ready for occupancy until 2008.

Development of the first 3,000 acres over the next 15 years will include 12,000 residential units, 20 million square feet of commercial space and creation of an estimated 15,000 jobs.

The plan includes an urban center with a regional lifestyle shopping center and big box retail along I-25, two town centers with community retail services and six village centers with neighborhood retail services.

Meanwhile, the initial studio complex consists of a 500,000-square-foot soundstage and town center with 50,000 square feet of retail services geared to the needs of the estimated 2,000 film production personnel who will work there at any given time.