Rio Rancho History

We've been involved in Rio Rancho development for many 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 land in Sandoval County, NM close to Northwest Albuquerque.

1962 - Model home construction began in Rio Rancho.

1963 - First two residents moved into Rio Rancho Estates. AMREP marketed Rio Rancho as a retirement community a few homes and thousands of vacant lots to people from the Eastern and Midwest areas of the United States. 

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. Total land ownership to 92,000 acres.

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’s to help pay for the new wastewater line.  

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

1985 – AMREP Southwest built its 55,000 square foot headquarters on NM 528 (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.  Other non-AMREP development corporations began to develop subdivisions and housing competing with AMREP.

AMREP continued developing residential, commercial and industrial lots for re-sale. AMREP eventually terminated its home building company and reduced its local workforce. 


Between 1980 and 1990, the City’s population more than tripled.

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.


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. To date the project has nearly 100 homes, community center, and office space built.

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 has a 160 acre $38 million industrial user under contract for a 2014 closing and construction time frame. Quail Ranch is fully entitled and is ready to start its overall project in the near future when housing development activity resumes its normal market level of demand.

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 collaspe.

2004 -Loma Colorado. Pulte Homes selected as master developer for 440 acres and construction on that project began in 2006.  Most of the 900 home subdivision is now complete at Loma Colorado.

2005 – City Center began development with a new City Hall and new $41 million Santa Ana Center.

2005 & 2006 – The State Land Office selected two development and planning lessees for the City Center State Land Office project and the 640 acre Paseo Gateway project located in north Rio Rancho fronting on the new Paseo del Volcan Freeway.

2006 – 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 new $120 million Sue Cleveland High School opened in northern Rio Rancho in the State Land Offices ’s Paseo Gateway project in northern Rio Rancho.

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

2011- UNM Sandoval County Hospital began construction of its new $150 million hospital and opened in 2012 in northern Rio Rancho.

2013 – Stonegate and Cuesta el 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.

Rio Rancho Today

The City of Rio Rancho was recently named one of the Top Ten City’s in America by Family Circle Magazine.

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 non-contiguous lots which are difficult to re-assemble for development.

The City of Rio Rancho’s current US Census population (2010 Census data) is over 90,000 citizens living in over 35,000 residences.

Most of the population moving into the City of Rio Rancho today are relocating to Rio Rancho from within the State of New Mexico.

Most of the recent City of Rio Rancho non-residential developments in northern Rio Rancho on land that was previously owned by the State Land Office and were in Planning and Development Leases. These projects include the new City Centre (home of the new City Hall Building, UNM West Campus, Central New Mexico Community College, the Santa Ana Star Center, and the 217,000 square foot HP Service Center) and the new SLO owned 670 acre Paseo Gateway which is the home of the new Sue Cleveland High School.

Most of the recent City of Rio Rancho non-residential development in southern Rio Rancho is near the new 900 acre Cabezon subdivision. In or near Cabezon, the following non-residential projects were recently completed:  The new $190 Million Presbyterian Hospital, a new multi-screen movie theatre, new retail businesses and several new assisted living facilities.