The city of Santa Fe will engage in nine more months of public engagement to help it decide what to do with the 64-acre midtown campus, drawing concerns from one city councilor who said the process is dragging on far too long.
“Maybe I am just the odd person out, but I don’t feel urgency,” Councilor Signe Lindell said during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “We pay $8,000 to $10,000 a day for this campus, and it just seems like these processes take too long and people don’t have urgency about them.
“We aren’t being as fiscally responsible as we need to be about this.”
The University of New Mexico’s Design and Planning Assistance Center will oversee an application process to bring in community groups, which will be part of a midtown engagement team. The team will hold forums to gather feedback on what the city should do with the property. Stipends will be awarded to the groups to conduct the work.
Lindell said she didn’t remember approving the process outlined at Wednesday’s meeting.
“I am frustrated with it and, budget-wise, I find it extremely painful,” Lindell said. “I know you are all tired of hearing it, but I don’t remember approving this process. I didn’t ever feel like I was signing on to another public engagement process that was going to take another nine months.”
Santa Fe was forced to return to the drawing board in January after the City Council granted a request from Dallas-based KDC Real Estate Development & Investments/Cienda Partners to mutually terminate an exclusive negotiation agreement to development the campus.
KDC/Cienda found a number of issues with the site, including concerns about the campus’s deteriorating condition.
KDC/Cienda was brought in by Team Midtown, a consortium of local organizations, to spearhead the development of the site. Its proposal beat out another local consortium of businesses and Raffles Education Corp. a Singapore-based education group.
Lindell asked how the previous submittals played into the nine-month timeline.
Economic Development Director Rich Brown said those groups have been contacted via email and that the council likely will go into executive session to discuss the proposals and return on March 31 to talk about what to do next.
While City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler said she loves the idea of public engagement, she questioned whether it could be “whittled down a bit.”
City Councilor Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez acknowledged the financial hit the city takes with each passing day, but she noted that the property is as much a community investment as it is a financial investment for the city.
“I know that it takes time and that is money,” Cassutt-Sanchez said. “But I hope that as we continue to have these conversations we are thinking what this means for our community, what this means to our city and what those opportunities are.”