Santa Fe city officials said Friday they will begin evaluating 21 proposals received in response to a request for expressions of interest in redevelopment of the city-owned midtown campus.
The city said it was looking more for ideas than firm proposals in applications submitted by an Oct. 31 deadline. City Hall is seeking a compatible master developer attuned to the city’s vision for the 64.2-acre property before nailing down a specific project.
Just what may be built or how the city will use the former College of Santa Fe campus and subsequent home of the now-defunct Santa Fe University of Art and Design won’t be determined until at least some time next year.
“This response confirms our conviction that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our city,” Mayor Alan Webber said in a statement. “The people who have stepped up with proposals are local, national, and international. Their ideas are big and small, immediate and long term. It’s a great response.”
The city said it will begin the evaluation process with respondents grouped into four categories: master developers of the entire campus, project developers of smaller portions of the campus, business tenants and business owner/academic institutions.
The city will first seek a potential master developer for the whole campus area.
The city received seven master developer responses, including Raffles Education Corp., the Singapore-based education company that at one time expressed interest in buying the campus lease from Laureate Education, the Baltimore-based company that operated the Santa Fe University of Art and Design before closing the school in 2018, leaving the campus in the city’s hands.
Other master developer submissions came from:
• Central Park Santa Fe, headed by Alan Affeldt, who restored the Legal Tender building in Lamy and the Castañeda Hotel and Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, N.M.
• U.S. Department of Energy Los Alamos field office.
• KDC Real Estate Development & Investments/Cienda Partners of Dallas.
• Santa Fe Innovation Village, a project involving John Rizzo, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Jive Software, and Albuquerque developer John Mahoney.
• Specialized Capital Partners of Chicago.
• Zydeco, a project by Santa Fe-based Zydeco Development President Richard Yates.
Webber stressed that all the out-of-state developers have local people on their teams.
Webber and Daniel Hernandez, the city’s contracted project manager for the midtown campus, said no details from any of the proposals would be released to the public, citing state procurement laws they say require contents of submissions not be made public until final selections have been made by the city’s elected governing body.
There was no clear sense when or if a master developer would be selected, other than Hernandez hinting at the second quarter of 2020.
The first thing that will happen is an evaluation committee of city department heads in coming months will review and evaluate all 21 proposals and rank the top candidates, Hernandez said.
Starting in early January, Hernandez will have a series of public study sessions with the mayor and City Council discussing how candidates score under various criteria such as experience, financial approach, composition of the team, the development program, respecting adjacent neighbors and how their ideas fit into the city’s theme for the property: “Live, work, learn, play.”
“This has to be the right mix of uses, with academic uses as a key driver, along with housing, business and technology, entertainment, and neighborhood servicing retail to create a vibrant mixed-use district where people can live, work, learn and play,” Hernandez said in a statement. “In addition, housing affordability for Santa Fe households and other community development objectives will inform much of the review and evaluation process.”
Respondents under the categories of developer of smaller portions of the campus or academic institution or potential tenant include the University of New Mexico, Homewise, Santa Fe Sound Studios, Advent Life Church, Conejo Partners/Santa Fe Public Market, Essential Dwelling, Garson Studios Santa Fe, Goodwest Productions, Nurses with Heart, Santa Fe Art Institute, Santa Fe Council on International Relations, Santa Fe Recovery Center/Davis Innovations, Stormhold, and The Extant Group/New Mexico Innovation Triangle.
Some of the applicants applied as part of developer and master developer submissions. Ultimately, some tenant and smaller developer applicants may end up as part of master developments, as could organizations that did not apply in this round but could be considered at a later date, Webber said.
The evaluation and study session period may or may not lead to an exclusivity agreement with a master developer that is designed to lead toward a disposition and development agreement, possibly by the end of 2020, detailing terms of sale of the campus and phasing of the project, likely over several, even many years, Hernandez said.
The city chose the approach of requesting expressions of interest rather than the much more common approach of issuing a request for proposals because the latter would lock the city into a developer’s proposal, the mayor said. Webber added this approach gives the city more flexibility and allows it to be a collaborative partner.
“We may have a master developer but say, ‘Would you talk to the Garson Studios?’ ” Webber said, “or, ‘Are you sure you don’t want any housing?’ ”
The midtown campus property could become considerably larger as the project progresses. The city has proposed land swaps with the state of New Mexico and the U.S. Forest Service, which own property adjoining the campus.
“The status is we are making progress,” Webber said. “Both sides are in agreement that this needs to happen.”