Rio Rancho History


We’ve been involved in Rio Rancho development for decades. Here’s an overview of one of the fastest growing cities in the United States:

1950’s and 1960’s – In New York, during the 1950’s, two entrepreneurs started a mail order business company in New York.  After some time, the company expanded its business into other areas including land development to become American Real Estate and Petroleum Corporation (AMREP).

1961 – AMREP purchased the Koontz Family Ranch and more than 55,000 acres of land NW of Albuquerque in Sandoval County, NM.

1962 – Model home construction began in Rio Rancho.

1963 – The first two residents moved into Rio Rancho Estates. AMREP marketed Rio Rancho as a retirement community and sold a few homes and thousands of vacant lots to people from the Eastern and Midwest areas of the United States. Vacant undeveloped lots were sold from the early 1960’s to the late 1970’s. Thousands of half acre and larger lots were sold to individuals who were mostly located in the upper mid-west and eastern United States. The lots have virtually no planning and no infrastructure. The lots, many fronting on dirt roads AMREP was forced to grade, remain for the most part undeveloped. Because of the scattered ownership and lack of planning and infrastructure the lots have become known as antiquated platting. This type of platting and lot sales program is no longer legal.

1964 – Community’s population between 75 to 100 citizens.

1969 – Rio Rancho grew to approximately 1,500 citizens.




1971 – AMREP purchased an additional 35,000 acres from the King Ranch Family. This purchase brings total land ownership to 92,000 acres less the lots already sold.

Rio Rancho had 2,500 residents and its first shopping center.

AMREP built large subdivisions and sold an average of 1,100 homes per year built by AMREP on parcels of lands AMREP had retained in various nodes throughout Rio Rancho.

1974 – Rio Rancho’s population grew to 5,377 and the first Elementary school opened.

1977 – AMREP continued to subdivide and sell portions of its 92,000 acres and 86,000 lots. AMREP sold 77,000 lots to 45,000 investors from 35 states between 1961 and 1977.




1980 – Intel Corporation came to Rio Rancho. In order to attract Intel, AMREP sold Intel 160 acres of prime industrial land at its southeast entrance into Rio Rancho at a discounted price. Sandoval County agreed to issue the largest amount of Industrial Revenue Bonds in the history of New Mexico. The Albert Black Family donated over 2.5 miles of wastewater easements from the NM 528 Intel plant east to Coors Blvd and south to Paseo del Norte Blvd. to connect Intel and southern Rio Rancho to the City of Albuquerque’s West Side wastewater master planned line. The Black Family also donated $140,000 cash to Intel to help pay for the new wastewater line.  

1981 – Rio Rancho incorporated and became the City of Rio Rancho.  The City initially annexed and zoned 3,500 acres of the 92,000 acre Rio Rancho subdivision.

1985 – AMREP Southwest built its 55,000 square foot headquarters on NM 528 (Pat D’Arco Highway).  

AMREP expanded its homebuilding portfolio to include higher priced homes and sold lots to outside home builders for the first time.  AMREP closed its home building division.  

Between 1980 and 1990, the City’s population grew to more than 32,000.




1994 – Rio Rancho created its own independent school district, Rio Rancho Public Schools.

1995 – The City of Rio Rancho purchased and took control of its water and wastewater utility system.

In the 1990’s, INTEL completed several upgrades to its manufacturing facility in Rio Rancho. These expansions helped Rio Rancho become one of the fastest growing small Cities in America during this time period.




2002 – Mariposa, a 7,200 acre master planned project was annexed and zoned into the City of Rio Rancho’s far northwest quadrant of the city.  The Mariposa development has a total estimated build out of over 6,000 homes, a commercial area, schools, recreation, and employment opportunities.  Prior to the Real Estate crash in 2007-2008, the project developed nearly 100 homes, a community center, and office space. Between 2007 and 2017, virtually all development stopped. Since 2017 several hundred homes have been built and sold. This community is now one of the finest in the Albuquerque metro area.

2003 – Over 11,000 acres of land was annexed into the City of Rio Rancho on its far south boundary.  Quail Ranch, a 6,500-acre home master planned project, was annexed and zoned, and an additional 4,500 acres in Bernalillo County was master planned and annexed into the City of Rio Rancho.

2003 – Quail Ranch received final approval for zoning from the City of Rio Rancho for over 25,000 new residential units, 600 plus acres of industrial land, and over 400 acres of commercial land within the largest new master planned community project in the City of Rio Rancho. Quail Ranch is fully entitled and is ready to start its overall project in the near future.

2004 – Cabezon Community started development in Rio Rancho. Cabezon completed most of its development and sales of approximately 3,500 homes prior to the 2007 recession and housing collapse. The last homes were built in 2018.

2004 – Loma Colorado. Pulte Homes was selected as master developer for 440 acres and construction on a re-development project began in 2006.  Construction of the 900-home subdivision was completed in 2018 at Loma Colorado.

2005 – The number of new residential permits issued by the City of Rio Rancho peaked at 3084. This number was unsustainable and a result of rampant credit expansion which was a worldwide epidemic and resulted in the credit and housing crash in 2007-2008 and the great recession which followed.

2005 – City Center began development with a new City Hall and new $41 million Multi-Purpose Arena.

2005 & 2006 – The State Land Office selected two development and planning lessees for the City Center State Land Office project and the Paseo Gateway project located in north Rio Rancho fronting on the new Paseo del Volcan Freeway.

2006 – Construction began on the new Paseo del Volcan Freeway connecting Rio Rancho from US 550 on the north end of the City to Interstate 40 south of the City.

2007 – The City of Rio Rancho negotiated a contract with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority to provide water rights, water, and wastewater service to approximately 10,000 acres of land located in southern Rio Rancho within Bernalillo County.  This portion of Rio Rancho includes the 6,500 acre Quail Ranch and 4,500 acres of land between Quail Ranch and Ventana Ranch known as the Paradise West Subdivision.

2007 – The $120 million Sue Cleveland High School opened in northern Rio Rancho in the State Land Offices’ Paseo Gateway project in northern Rio Rancho.

2009 – Presbyterian Hospital began construction of its $190 million hospital building which opened in 2011 in southern Rio Rancho.

2011 – UNM Sandoval County Hospital began construction of its new $150 million hospital and opened in 2012 in northern Rio Rancho.  The hospital will be a teaching hospital with a 160-acre campus.

2013 – Stonegate and Cuesta al Este residential subdivisions in northern Rio Rancho were approved by the City of Rio Rancho for construction of approximately 1,400 single family residential lots and related commercial land.  These are the first two residential subdivisions approved since the 2007 real estate recession began.

2014-2017 – The effects of the great recession lingered in Rio Rancho and in New Mexico. Employment growth has been stagnant as has population growth. Neither Stonegate nor Cuesta al Este has broken ground on development yet.  Home construction continues but at a much slower pace in Cabezon, Loma Colorado, Mariposa and scattered sites in Rio Rancho. New home permits issued have fallen to around 500 per year.

Some bright notes have occurred.  Hewlett Packard built a 218,000 sq. ft. call center in Rio Rancho’s City Centre. A regional shopping center with over 180,000 sq. ft. of space was completed in north Rio Rancho. The center (in 2018) has a high occupancy rate and is providing much needed gross receipts revenue and shopping opportunities for Rio Rancho.



Rio Rancho Today

2018 – The City of Rio Rancho was named one of the Top Ten City’s in America by Family Circle Magazine – August 2013 issue. 

The City of Rio Rancho continues to be one of the nation’s fastest growing small cities, due to affordable housing, quality school system, low crime rate, and strategic location in central NM.

The City of Rio Rancho is currently 66,670 acres and has built out approximately 13,000 acres.  Although less than 20% of the city is developed, a substantial portion of the City (with the exception of the State Land Office properties, Quail Ranch and Mariposa) is subdivided to ½ to 1-acre undeveloped lots with multiple owners and no or limited infrastructure which are difficult to re-assemble for development.

Fall – 2018

The November election brought a much needed property tax increase designated for the UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center (SRMC). The UNM campus was recently transferred within UNM to the Health Sciences department. This redirection of the campus along with the new revenue stream will allow SRMC to begin an expansion of the hospital, classroom space, infrastructure, and programs available at the site.

The City of Rio Rancho’s current estimated population is over 96,000 and it is the 3rd largest city in New Mexico.



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2611 Withington Peak Dr.,
Rio Rancho, NM 87144

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