The College of Santa Fe was a bustling campus for more than six decades. Today, the 66 acres is mostly devoid of people, with Sean Gabriel’s crew from Proscape Landscape Management conspicuously standing out.
“We’re at the midtown campus every day, cleaning up the vegetation,” Gabriel said. “It’s been vacant and neglected for quite a while and it’s obviously overgrown. We’re focusing on different buildings and priority areas for the city. Right now we’re removing low-lying limbs from trees. We have not started the [weed] mowing not yet. That’s generally the easiest task, so it’s left until last.”
The parcel off St. Michael’s Drive has been mostly vacant since May 2018, when Laureate Education closed its 8-year-old Santa Fe University of Art & Design. The campus previously was the home to the College of Santa Fe from 1947 to 2009.
The big job is just one of the most recent for Gabriel, owner and director of operations of Proscape Landscape Management. He also owns Santa Fe EcoWood and Precision Pest Control.
“We just finished all of Cerrillos Road from Airport Road to St. Francis, removing Siberian elms,” he said. “We cleaned all the medians, the roadsides, everything. It took four weeks. We finished that in early August.”
He said that most of the Siberian elms the crew removed were 4 to 6 feet tall — bigger than you could simply pull up. And because the city of Santa Fe doesn’t allow the use of herbicides, they had to use picks.
“We had to put our best guys on it, our biggest, strongest guys,” Gabriel said.
His company, started in 2013, has more than 50 employees.
“Our formula, and I’m still learning, is to try to recognize talent, pay more than other companies do, and give people some direction,” he said. “It’s not a dead-end job. A lot of the companies in this field of work look at employees as numbers. All my management has been promoted from within. I think that breeds enthusiasm, and that transfers into people’s work ethic.”
Gabriel, born in Santa Fe, saw opportunities for business during a period he spent working for his father, Sidney Gabriel, who owns Gabriel’s Restaurant.
Sean Gabriel’s first foray was the firewood business. Today Santa Fe EcoWood supplies many of the city’s hotels with piñon, cedar and pine.
“I started that as a recession-proof business, and some of the hotels I started supplying took a liking to me and asked me to do different things, and one of them was landscaping,” he said.
His first significant client was Bishop’s Lodge. His firm took care of all the resort’s landscaping until new owner Richard Holland closed it in 2015 for demolition and a substantial rebuilding project that’s still in the works.
Proscape Landscape Management operates in the entire Santa Fe-Albuquerque area with both residential and commercial clients, but the latter is now the most prominent.
The Proscape list of services includes landscaping design, installation and maintenance; xeriscaping and water management; sod installation; hanging baskets; flagstone pathways; coyote fences; tree-pruning; and organic heirloom garden installations.
The Cerrillos Road cleanup was a city contract, as is the midtown campus project. Proscape recently completed a similar job — mowing, cleaning and removing Siberian elms — along Governor Miles Road from Cerrillos Road east to Camino Carlos Rey.
The company also maintains the landscaping at Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder, at the new Tesuque Casino, in the Monte Sereno subdivision, in the Bishop’s Lodge Villas, on the Thornburg Investment Management campus and at Fort Marcy compound.
Gabriel is also doing all the landscaping installations for the new houses in La Entrada, the newest neighborhood being developed in Rancho Viejo.
Proscape is in charge of landscaping maintenance at the downtown U.S. post office, the U.S. courthouse and the adjacent park.
“And we’re bidding on the landscaping for all of the Santa Fe Public Schools,” Gabriel said.