Central Avenue, Nob Hill Main Street, has a split personality. It was, and still is Albuquerque's original "Main Street," like Main Streets all across the country, but its other personality is Route 66, the great Mother Road which carried countless Americans westward to California during the Great Depression. This dual personality has contributed to Nob Hill's fascinating blend of roadside architecture designed to appeal to the weary motorist, and storefronts designed to appeal to neighborhood shoppers.
Until the mid-1930's Central Avenue east of the University of New Mexico consisted of a few motor courts, gas stations, campgrounds and one cafe. Albuquerque proper was still to the west, but the city's street car system didn’t make it out this far.
In1947 R.B. Waggoman developed `the Nob Hill Business Center, one of the first modern shopping centers to incorporate parking west of the Mississippi. The Center, built in the architectural style Streamline Moderne, quickly became the hub of the most fashionable area of town.
Today, the Center stands as one of the best preserved examples of this type of post war architecture.
Post mid century travelling was changing rapidly. With the completion of Interstate 40 in 1959, Route 66 travelers eventually gave up their slow, romantic journeys through enchanting New Mexico to drive at speeds of 60 to 70 miles an hour. In 1955, Albuquerque's Route 66 had 98 motels; by 1992, only 48 remained. Today, most hotels/motels on Route 66 are national chains. Only a few family owned motels of historic significance remain.
Nob Hill is home to an eclectic mix of shops, galleries, bars, and restaurants, many of which are locally owned. There are also some chain stores, such as Urban Outfitters, Buffalo Exchange, and Starbucks. Until recently most of the commercial activity in the neighborhood was confined to the area west of Carlisle, but new development has been gradually expanding eastward along Central.