Nobody likes a know-it-all who says they told you so. I’ll leave that to many other local development professionals who could have easily predicted the courtship between the city and its prom date for the midtown campus was destined to end in a crushed corsage and a torrent of tears.

The city thought it had cutting-edge thinking when it brought in Bay Area transplants to cook up something called a request for expressions of interest, or RFEI. Development professionals from around the country responded to the request, even as most scratched their heads over something neither seen nor heard before.

Like a bachelor-based reality show, the object of pursuit was attractive and the promise of future bliss potentially real. But getting gussied up for a beauty contest is time-consuming and expensive.

Such was the case with KDC Real Estate Development & Investments/Cienda Partners, the Dallas-based principal of the team assembled for the midtown campus beauty contest. After spending countless hours and many tens of thousands of dollars preparing its response, KDC was crowned the winner by a process purported to be transparent and metric-based. Like any pageant, it wasn’t. Ultimately, it came down to that company was the best looking, with an unmatched pedigree and deep financial pockets.

Anybody who has bought or sold a home knows the process. The buyer does due diligence and hires an inspection outfit on their own dime. Likewise, the seller discloses any known defects. The inspection comes back with new unknowns and the buyer says fix them, discount the price or we walk.

In this case, however, the seller knew stuff, perhaps unofficially, and left it to the buyer to figure out on their own. It cost the beauty queen hundreds of thousands and led to conclusions of repair and replacement estimates in the tens of millions.

When the campus became city-owned, Matthew O’Reilly was the city’s Land Use Department director. A civil engineer with a 30-year track record of local subdivision planning and development, O’Reilly served as chairman of the city’s Planning Commission prior to working for the city.

Mayor Javier Gonzales created a new city asset manager position around O’Reilly’s unique expertise and local development knowledge. Nobody knew more about what was up with the structures above ground at the campus. And more importantly, what was up with stuff under the ground — the stuff that really drives initial costs.

O’Reilly knew much of it was not good, and there were reports that said so. He didn’t claim at the time the precise estimates for repair or replacement, but he was qualified to do an engineer’s estimate based on any proposed usages.

O’Reilly didn’t last long in the Webber administration. During the RFEI process, he was back in the private sector and attached to one or more applicant teams, none of which prevailed. If any team should have had a weighted average, it would have been one with O’Reilly’s intimate knowledge of the campus.

Others deserve a second look, too. The Central Park Santa Fe team was led by Allan Affeldt. Unlike the purely professional corporate assessment of fiduciary responsibility that jilted the current affair, Affeldt’s team was driven by someone who knows and has proven the power of resurrecting distressed historical assets for maximum civic redevelopment.

He knows it’s messy and relishes the chance to be right again. For him, and those attached to him, it was never about the money. It was about the legacy of doing something historic for our beautiful city.

RFEI should not now become an acronym for reason for extending indefinitely.

Editor’s note: Kim Shanahan served as an adviser to one of the teams not selected in the initial midtown campus process. He is not affiliated with any potential interested party.

Kim Shanahan has been a Santa Fe

green builder since 1986 and a sustainability consultant since 2019. Contact him at

(9) comments

Stefanie Beninato

Your column, Kim, hits the nail on the head (pun intended). The process makes the process for any project unknown. For example at a "community-input meeting" designers came in with competing infrastructure design that the community was supposed to respond to. It was apparent that no one knew what and where certain uses would be. The designs were based pure speculation. The city staff's argument was that it allowed flexibility for a developer to come up with a really nifty design. Instead if you listened to last week's midtown update all it did was create uncertainty about how and when certain parts of the property will be zoned. The numerous staff now involved (7 committees-a bureaucrat's dream) are still recommending this failed process including seemingly a process solely run by staff. Why is the city so slow to learn from its mistakes. And as much as I would like a 4 year liberal arts college there, the direction is for vo-tec whether in health care or film. The city owes it to its residents and developers to put out a clear RFP that designates uses and the areas for those uses and start the rezoning process now. For 10 years the city has bled money thanks to Big Bill's arm twisting and David Coss's thankfully unsuccessful desire to go on to bigger and better political offices. Expanding the cafeteria of Laureate instead of dealing with environmental and infrastructure concerns is just the beginning of a long list of city mistakes on the CSF campus.

Ramon David

The city should do now what it should have done when it bought the campus: Hire a good executive to assemble a team to run the place. There have been and still are city owned colleges and there is no reason Santa Fe can't make it work.

david cartwright

Any project that has at its core the notion of a bunch of free stuff for an imaginary community (ie, not the real community of taxpayers)--destined to fail. Sell the entire campus to the highest bidder and be done with it.

Richard Reinders


Stefanie Beninato


Cheryl Odom

As a former faculty of over thirty years, and as someone who was very attached to the campus and community that was the College of Santa Fe, I think I can speak for many of us who worked or studied there. We are dismayed and saddened having watched our beloved campus turn into a dump with crumbled buildings and dead gardens. Many of us participated in the endless workshops and meetings, hoping that something good would come of our efforts. We were hopeful. Now we're saddened and feeling betrayed.

Maria Bautista

Cheryl, agree! Problems was hidden agenda. They locked community out of process. Betrayal started when they hired out of state company, community partners are not developers, they attach their name to project, but KDC was not interested, Mike Loftin of Homewise sold them a bill of goods, lied to them, misrepresented property and community ideas. . Why is he negotiating city contracts???

Richard Reinders

Is the city exempt from disclosure ? Transparency is the sauce that makes any process a success.

Maria Bautista

Richard, a complaint went to AG ABOUT closed meetings.

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