Developer proposals hint at what’s in store for city-owned midtown campus

The city has received 21 proposals to redevelop the midtown campus left vacant after the Santa Fe University of Art and Design closed. Luis Sánchez Saturno New Mexican file photo

Santa Fe city leaders asked for developers’ ideas on what to do with the city-owned midtown campus, and ideas they got from 21 applicants to the city’s request for expressions of interest.

The city will release no details from the responses, which were due Oct. 31, citing state procurement laws to keep proposals confidential. But The New Mexican reached out to most of the applicants, who revealed their ideas for the onetime college campus.

The city purposefully elected to pursue the request for expressions of interest (RFEI) approach rather than the more common request for proposals (RFP). The RFEI allows the city to be an active player to shape a project with the selected applicant or applicants for a development agreement, rather than being locked into a specific proposal through the RFP approach, said Daniel Hernandez, the city’s contracted project manager for the midtown campus.

The 21 applicants had a choice of four categories: master developer to oversee the entire campus; project developer to focus on a certain section or buildings on campus; master lessee; and building tenant.

This is creating a dynamic of project developers, master lessees and building tenants already jockeying to collaborate with master developers so that several applicants are involved in more than one proposal.

Hernandez and Mayor Alan Webber openly acknowledge they hope to sign on a master developer and then assemble a project with other applicants and even organizations that did not respond to the RFEI.

“This RFEI allows the level of informality that allows creativity to happen,” said Johanna Gilligan, community development director at Homewise, one of the applicants. “How can this be more of a mashup in a good way?”


Homewise, a Santa Fe affordable housing developer, is thinking of building two-story townhomes and five-story apartments with ground floor retail. Homewise has its own RFEI response and joined with other master developers.

“We are interested in creating a housing type that can attract young people who typically find it difficult to find a place they can afford,” Gilligan said. “We are very intentionally flexible so it can align with other master developers.”

The state’s powerhouse players also have eyes on the midtown campus. The University of New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory submitted RFEI proposals.

University of New Mexico

UNM wants to create a project known as “The Aquifer: Center for Art, Design, Culture and Innovation,” potentially in the Fogelson Library building, said Tim Castillo, special adviser to the university’s provost for Santa Fe initiatives and associate professor at the School of Architecture and Planning.

“We’re really interested in the library,” Castillo said. “We think it’s a great space.”

The tenants could conceivably be architecture and planning, computer science, engineering, film and digital media, and the Anderson School of Management, all of which took part in writing the UNM response to the RFEI.

“We want an interdisciplinary venue to create,” Castillo said. “This is not done anywhere in our region.”

Los Alamos National Laboratory

The National Nuclear Security Administration, which administers the Los Alamos National Laboratory management and operating contract, submitted a master developer proposal to build an open-campus environment with administrative offices, sustainable green spaces, engineering space, light manufacturing, training facilities and research and development. There would be no radiological or hazardous activities performed at the midtown property, said Al Stotts, an NNSA spokesman in Albuquerque.

“Details regarding any movement of personnel are premature as we continue exploration of Midtown as a viable option for LANL,” Stotts said in an email. “LANL is undergoing unprecedented growth and expects to hire more than 1,000 new personnel annually for the next several years. Having a new campus — midway between New Mexico’s two national laboratories — to house professional staff, scientists, and engineers in partnership with the city of Santa Fe — would be very beneficial.”

Council of International Relations

The Santa Fe Council of International Relations made an expression of interest for office space on the midtown campus and dedicated access to stage events at the Greer Garson Theatre Center and other theater space on campus. If the council can lease about 3,000 square feet, it could have its own event space, Executive Director Sandy Campbell said.

“I want to be among other like-minded nonprofits,” Campbell said. “We want to be part of the buzz of something now.”

Santa Fe Art Institute

The Santa Fe Art Institute, which has been a midtown campus tenant since 1999, is part of a group called New Town Arts Alliance. It submitted a proposal for the Marion Center for Photographic Arts, Tishman Hall, Thaw Art History Center, Tipton Hall and a barracks building — a combined 50,000 square feet on 4 acres, said Jamie Blosser, executive director of the art institute.

She is collaborating with Santa Fe YouthWorks, MAKE Santa Fe, Littleglobe, CENTER and MASS Design Group, all of which would be tenants.

“It could be the heart of an urban arts ecosystem,” Blosser said. “We want to create a vibrant arts and design hub.”

Nurses with Heart Home Care

Nurses with Heart Home Care provides in-home day care services for seniors. It proposes an adult day center to provide similar services in a socialized group setting with meals included along with group sessions with artists and musicians, said Elais Ponton, co-founder and chief nursing officer at Nurses with Heart.

“We want to be a tenant in a building with an enclosed outdoor space,” Ponton said.

Goodwest Productions

After 20 years as a film and television producer, New Mexico native Steve Graham launched Goodwest Productions in Santa Fe early in 2019. Graham, who was executive producer for the Syfy channel zombie TV series Z Nation, wants to purchase the Garson Studios buildings and 12 acres on the midtown campus.

He proposes adding two 15,000-square-foot soundstages, office space and other film production facilities to the existing three soundstages with 14,000, 7,500 and 2,600 square feet.

“We typically rent space when we do a project,” Graham said. “This would give us a home. Our proposal is designed to dovetail with other master developers.”

Garson Studios

Garson Studios Managing Director Claudio Ruben also submitted a midtown campus proposal, but he declined to discuss specifics for the city-owned film production facility.

“Garson Studios is very much invested in the future of the Midtown Campus,” Ruben said in an email. “We are looking to further Garson Studio’s role in building up the film industry both in Northern New Mexico and across the state, along with our industry partners.”

Central Park Santa Fe

Allan Affeldt is leading a master developer proposal for the midtown campus called Central Park Santa Fe. He plans to build more than 1,000 housing units around a communal space. Affeldt said he is also in discussions with the University of New Mexico, and his ideas include a hotel, a linear park and an amphitheater.

Advent Life Church

In a smaller project development, Advent Life Church wants to use four midtown campus buildings to relocate the church from its four locations in Santa Fe and also create a veterans center as temporary housing for vets returning from war zones in collaboration with the Veterans Integration Center in Albuquerque, said Allen Steele, who is involved in the project.

LiveArts Santa Fe

Several theater groups formed a limited liability corporation called LiveArts Santa Fe, headed by Argos MacCallum, executive director of Teatro Paraguas. It planned to submit its own proposal but instead would operate the Greer Garson Theatre Center for an unnamed master developer.

More submissions

Other expressions of interest were submitted by Conejo Partners/Santa Fe Public Market; Essential Dwelling; KDC/Cienda Partners; Raffles Education Corp.; Santa Fe Innovation Village; Santa Fe Recovery Center/Davis Innovations; Specialized Capital Partners; Stormhold; The Extant Group/New Mexico Innovation Triangle; Santa Fe Sound Studios (which is not affiliated with Santa Fe Studios) and Zydeco.

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(13) comments

Linda Garrido

Affordable housing. Not in a "ghetto" way...Housing for the very poor, for the family's struggling with raising children, for the young adults - either single or married - who need entry-level housing, for those who are in their career choice but who cannot afford steep Santa Fe rents and mortgages, etc!!! And the housing could be a mix of rentals and of ownerships. Plus that affordable housing will need Community - parks, centers, entertainment, shops.

Stefanie Beninato

I feel like the church renting space there is a form of the city endorsing that church--education, housing sure

Arnold Mayberg

A film studio creates jobs, is glamorous and feeds the tourist trade. Also, production crews must eat and spend money on the GRT. Also affordable housing, a senior center and the adult day care sound great. I better be nice to the millenials. I might need them to help change my diapers one day.

Jay Coghlan

No Los Alamos Lab in Santa Fe! The added jobs for LANL that the article refers to are primarily for expanded production of plutonium pits, the fissile triggers of nuclear weapons. Over the last decade the Santa Fe City Council has passed three different resolutions against expanded pit production.

Just this last Sunday Pope Francis called for the abolition of nuclear weapons while in Japan paying homage to the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Those atomic bombs were designed and produced at the Los Alamos Lab.

The City of Santa Fe is officially the “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís” ("The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi"), named for the famous saint who preached peace and environmental protection and from whom the present Pope draws his name. It would be supremely ironic if the City of Santa Fe hosted a satellite campus for an institution that spends $2 billion (and rising) every year on nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Mayor Webber and the Santa Fe City Council surely know that would generate a tremendous amount of controversy in our blessed City, a controversy they could well do without. The City of Santa Fe should stop LANL’s proposal for a satellite campus in our town as a nonstarter and an affront to St. Francis de Assissi, the saint of peace.

Jay Coghlan

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Khal Spencer

More housing or a locus of high paying jobs. Either works for me but please, not another pie in the sky idea that fails, leaving the city to mop up the debris of a too-good idea.

We have retired friends who did not manage to win the silver spoon in the mouth award and have a hard time finding affordable places to live, so indeed, its not just young folks who are increasingly iced out of a housing market poisoned by income inequality. How would the city ensure affordable housing? Or, perhaps, go with the LANL idea and provide more job and people diversity in the city different.

Either way, this is a golden opportunity to do something that will promote long term goodness to Santa Fe. Let's not blow it.

Carolyn DM

Plain and simple, Santa Fe desperately needs affordable housing, and definnitely not just for the young folks, especially since the City has pathetically failed to uphold the requirements they themselves put in place for developers to abide by. They've essentially screwed those that need affordable housing and if someone else can come in and make it happen, more power to them!!

Candace Martinez

Best idea heard locally from educator Sarah Oberstein: Create a state teacher-training academy - and watch it become national! There has been so much talk about education in this state; now it's time to do something about it and we have the space and the opportunity.

Jens Meyer

Please no Senior Center, there is already a ton of old people in Santa Fe. If Santa Fe wants to grow into a more progressive city for the future, it needs to start catering toward younger generation. Too many Boomers not enough millennials

Carolyn DM

What pettiness against old people. Maybe you can look at it this way, if they're in a senior residential center, they might be less likely to be out and about bothering you in whatever way it is that they apparently do.

Jens Meyer

OK Boomer

Khal Spencer

Meredith Madri

The only population Santa Fe seems to "cater" to is the Tourist Population.

Air BNB's have taken over where there used to be real neighborhoods. Greed is squeezing out long time residents, young and old.

Affordable Housing is desperately needed here for EVERYONE.

Linda Garrido

Bah Humbug, Jens. Intergenerational reality is healthier!! A day care for Seniors, plus a day Care for Pre-K, plus an after-school center for children, plus a center for Teens, plus a Mixer Center for young adults. You cannot put that "ton of old people" on an ice floe...... Use them for their affability and their lives' experiences; take care of them; you'll be one of them, I hope, after your growing up and old life's experiences.

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