I’m pretty sure momentum is one of the laws of nature.

It’s also habitually appropriated by sports announcers and political candidates. Unlike a stone rolling down a hill, a physical truth, political momentum needs a big grain of salt. And so does “momentum” to move City Hall and city functions to the midtown campus.

A week before the recent midtown block party to assess opinions from previous nonrespondents, the story broke of growing momentum to consider relocating City Hall to the site as an anchor for other city services.

The thinking was downtown City Hall in the structure that once held Santa Fe High could be sold to an enterprising hotelier and be reconfigured, not unlike the Drury Hotel taking hold on the site that once held the old St. Vincent Hospital.

That wasn’t a bad idea.

Moving City Hall to the midtown campus is.

The recent block party questionnaires provided by Midtown Moving Forward had five categories: Economy, Equity, Culture, Environment and Government & Community Services Center. The first four were in line with already expressed interests and match the direction the city has already said it intends to go. The fifth option apparently was intended to solidify momentum on a relocated City Hall.

That questionnaire started with obvious answers. Yes, we know city services are scattered around the city. Yes, that is inconvenient. Yes, it would be better if they were all together. But no, we would not “support consolidating services in the center of the city at Midtown with easier access.”

That possibility was so far down the previously expressed desires for the campus that, even if it had been suggested, it never made the final cut of city priorities. Maybe the city thought constituents of Earthcare, YouthWorks and the Chainbreaker Collective would strengthen momentum, but that’s doubtful.

There may be some logic behind those pushing the momentum. If massive new infrastructure is needed for the campus, and it is, a large bond for that work may be more palatable if done for civic structures — rather than private or nonprofit interests providing housing and other services. If that is the rationale, then say so, instead of coyly suggesting there is momentum for something never before considered.

Consolidation has been seriously considered. Money was even spent to buy property to accommodate the idea. Just not at midtown.

Years ago, the city bought a large tract of vacant land behind city buildings on the south side of Siler Road. It was purchased from the late Terry Egbert, a local builder, and it was bought for that expressed purpose.

There’s no doubt a Siler Road location would be more convenient for City Hall than downtown. There’s also no doubt such a major civic investment in the area would stimulate redevelopment in a neighborhood ripe for change.

Such offices and services would be a boon for turning a semi-blighted district of auto body shops and industrial uses into a vital center. Midtown doesn’t need that kind of boost from civic buildings; it’ll have an even better boost someday.

But Siler Road does. It is already starting there. The new Siler Yard apartments and the ones coming soon on Agua Fría Street at the old Ecoversity site speak to maximum walkability. New restaurants and lifestyle services are bound to follow.

Consolidating city services along Siler Road was a great idea. It still is. And way better than the midtown campus.

Kim Shanahan has been a Santa Fe green builder since 1986 and a sustainability consultant since 2019. Contact him at shanafe@aol.com.

(13) comments

Mark Stair

Great idea! Had no idea of already purchased land there. My mind is changed from Mid-Town to Siler Rd.

Rob Morlino

I think both midtown or Siler Rd are far preferable to city hall's current location. To all those talking about awful traffic on Siler, maybe you're talking about a different street. My office looks out on Siler the whole workday and I never see it backed up as described.

Richard Reinders

Siler is a terrible idea, wait until the apt's are filled and commute time on Siler will double if not triple At least St Michaels can handle the traffic, but developers won't be able to make millions if they get part of the development for so called affordable housing.

Christina Gill

Why are we being pushed to believe midtown needs to be another strong hold for the elite rather than a center for the working people of Santa Fe.

William Mee

I noticed the picture of the Architect in the article in the New Mexican on 10-17-2021: Stefan Pelligrini, and he was the same guy that did the drawings and model for the City Administrative Office Complex on the 13 acres of the old Garcia Construction site that are now the 2925 Agua Fria Street Recycling Cycle and City Yard with a 50-foot tall mountain of Asphalt there.

That price tag of the NEW CITY HALLwas $30 million in 2015 (before steel, concrete and wood tripled in price) and was soon abandoned when the Sugar Tax vote was shot down Mayor Gonzales announced at the last City-County Joint meeting held (this is another problem that needs to be raised), that the taxpayers had no appetite for new taxes in a story covered by the New Mexican (https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/mayor-warns-county-commissioners-against-tax-increase/article_05a830e1-8134-55c2-8a84-2f606693bb2c.html). The lessons here are that a great majority of City Hall will fit into 13 acres, and Midtown is 64 acres plus the options to buy on the 20-acre federal property and the 20-acre state property. 104 acres is a great thing to plan.

Plus, Public Works Director at the time, Isaac Pino, and City Traffic Engineer John Romero talked in the public hearings (Early Neighborhood Notifications and to the City Council) about how relocating the Public Works building and operations (the parking of snow plows, etc.), would be a $6-20 million process that no other neighborhood will want when snow plows start at 3 or 4 a.m. They had already looked at lots on NM599 and Highway 14. The other thing that was a HUGE problem was that at Siler Road, you can reach any snow area in the City within 20-30 minutes; in fact, almost the same time to any City border area: Tesuque Hill, Hyde Park Estates, Capitol High School, the Hospitals. Moving to out of City areas---will make the EAST SIDE a 45 minute trip minimum. Meaning City Crews will need to start at 2 a.m. But historically, the snow usually starts to fall in the time period from 4 to 6 a.m. So crews would never know when to start plowing.

a fancy City Administrative building starting at a price tag of $30 million. Which would be a bond issue probably raising your property taxes like 20% (they are already high).

We need another Library--Covid-19 proved this as most if not all government operations were done on computers. A little known fact is that their is a Joint Powers Agreement where the County pays money to the City to maintain library service for county residents. So the influx of library patrons is not the new 13,000 people annexed in 2012 but the County base of 180,000 people.

The idea that the Santa Fe High building is 122 years old is City propaganda. There were two major remodels by the City, and the offices are routinely reconfigured and painted with each new Mayor. There have been huge telecommunications remodeling that are usually the issue with old buildings. In other words, it don't look like a 122 year old building. There was a lot of stuff done by former "Assets Manager" Matt O'Reily and his team looking at the value of the downtown buildings that could be sold. I think this should be a great part of the discussion. In the post Covid-19 world, downtown properties may not be that valuable anymore as a glut of commercial space remains vacant.

Alexander Brown

Siler Rd is not "Semi-Blighted" but a vital area for functional services and creative outlets. Perfect for what it is. It has long served and naturally developed over many decades. It is what helps make Santa Fe vital. Institutional takeover and expansion is short- sighted, a myopic vision. Exactly wrong. The Campus is a blank slate that does not disrespect or displace anybody. If we think Santa Fe for Santa Feans, a concept largely in the rear view mirror, we will respect this.

how about a little respect for those who have their careers, investments and futures there.

William Mee

Shanahan's "blighted area" was recently named by the N.M. Economic Development Department as a MainStreet Nexus Hub, containing Meow Wolf also.

John Trails

Kim, you appear to be a little out of touch, as your description of Siler reads like the view of someone looking down from their high horse. Siler is not a semi-blighted district of auto body shops and industrial uses, it is already a vital center. Stop by for a visit, you’ll find highly skilled workers from all parts of the city plying their trade. You’ll find family-owned trades, food trucks, coffee shops, and restaurants, along with artist studios, churches, offices, shelters, and new housing construction in the form of apartments and single-family homes sprouting everywhere (how about using that city land for affordable housing?) . You’ll find ENERGY. You won’t find any of that at the Mid-Town Campus. OK, redevelop Siler, what are you going to do with those people when they’re displaced......redevelop Mid-Town for light industry? On the other hand, what better place for city services than a location that is MID-town?

Stefanie Beninato

DUH John The site of those affordable apts being built on Siler Rd is CITY LAND. Really get your facts together. I am surprised that no one has mentioned the traffic congestion due to the reconfiguration of the street lanes that will increase exponentially once those apts are opened.

Yes, Kim, the city slanted its questionnaire recently and Abeyta and the Midtown team are ignoring constituents preferences--stated loudly and clearly more than once--and oh my, of course, there needs to be another study on the feasibility of moving city hall....What a waste of taxpayer resources!!!

William Mee

At 8am and 5pm Siler Road is backed up from the Cerrillos Road Intersection to the Roundabout at West Alameda. Changing 4 lanes to 2 lanes was not a good thing. People can only turn right and go around the block.

Emily Koyama

Piling onto the Siler Road traffic congestion issue...yes, as someone who drives Siler several times a week (and I'm not a "commuter")....I agree that the traffic on Siler is often backed up with dozens of cars and trucks, and not just during rush hour.

Adding city government offices there, in addition to the apartments, which are not even occupied yet, is a terrible idea.

I doubt Mr Shanahan drives it often, so perhaps is unaware.

John Trails

Of course the Siler Art Yards are on city land (DUH, as you so eloquently put it), and there's acres more of city land in the area. The traffic congestion is due to commuters, not area residents/business traffic, and is an issue during 'rush' hours.....something the city planners didn't quite think through when approving the Siler bridge connector, but in the overall scheme of things it doesn't matter, because traffic sucks throughout the entire city, and can't be fixed piecemeal.

Mid-Town needs to grow around SOMETHING, there is nothing there now to spur that growth. And there won't be. The cost of infrastructure is a non-starter for any developer that can't charge out-of-stater-third-home prices, so that leaves government money, and investment of government money has to benefit the people or it won't pass any vote. So Mid-Town continues to crumble as we go around in circles.

William Mee

Very good comments! Maybe the Mayor will read them and understand.

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