Read the bits and pieces of details about proposals to develop the midtown campus in Santa Fe, and anyone who cares about the future of Santa Fe can’t help but get excited.

What is currently 60-plus acres of mostly empty buildings has 21 applicants with visions of turning the land into a vibrant, inviting town center that would improve both the neighborhood and the economy. The city chose to go with requests for expressions of interest from potential developers, seeking the most flexibility to put together the right mix of housing, businesses, educational centers and other projects for the site. That’s as opposed to requests for proposals, a decision that means the city can be more active in shaping the final projects.

Unfortunately, the rest of Santa Fe is not able to evaluate the projects — the proposals are shrouded in secrecy. The city believes this is legal, citing state procurement codes. It’s hardly the transparency citizens deserve. Here’s why only releasing the finalists is not good enough. Without knowing details of the projects, it’s impossible to know whether the finalists are worthy.

What details we do know are coming from those who want to be part of the big redesign — and thanks to those potential participants, who are doing what the city should have done.

From what is available to the public, this truly has the potential to transform midtown Santa Fe and, eventually, the entire city. Residents of Santa Fe, when asked their visions for the space, have expressed support for housing, higher education and continued uses of the space that foster neighborhood connections and create a more vital city center. The campus also has signature buildings — the Greer Garson Theater and Fogelson Library — that need to be considered, as do the Garson Studio soundstages for movie and TV work.

From what has been unveiled by the developers themselves, the proposals are taking into account what Santa Fe residents have said they want. There also is interest from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Nuclear Security Administration, which wants office and workspace for its expanded mission. Other participants in the process are collaborating on arts initiatives, expanding the film presence and providing social services.

Developer Allen Affeldt, known for his redevelopment of historic hotels — including La Castañeda in Las Vegas, N.M. — is a leader in Central Park Santa Fe. He has been open about his proposal, which would include more than 1,000 housing units, a hotel, a park, an amphitheater and a potential partnership with the University of New Mexico, which is considering an expanded digital and film program in Santa Fe. He is one of seven potential master developers for the site.

The potential is incredible. As the discussion continues, residents need more information about the different proposals and details about just how the renewal would impact surrounding neighborhoods. The midtown campus, after all, does not exist in a vacuum. There are nearby businesses along St. Michael’s Drive to consider, neighboring schools — Milagro Middle and Santa Fe High — and neighborhoods surrounding Siringo Road.

However, this first round of proposals shows promise. Now, to discover more of the details.

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(3) comments

Tom Aageson Aageson

Transparency is always a plus in government. When there are bids at stake, there are rights that each organization has for the process to fair. We have had a public process that was wide open. Now it is time to narrow the master proposals and have those selected to refine their proposals and partner with organizations that submitted ideas but not master proposals. Where there could be right now is to answer is reviewing these projects? How were they chosen? What is the total process?

Chris Mechels

Transparency?? Surely you jest. This is Santa Fe. The only thing "transparent" is the ineptitude of Mayor Alan Webber, who is All PR All the Time.

Patricio R. Downs

Here's a thought: why not move city offices from downtown to the midtown campus? You solve lots of parking problems, plus these offices would be easily accessible from any part of town. The city can then lease their buildings downtown for a premium to businesses looking to expand to the Democratic People's Republic of Fanta Se. I'm sure there is no shortage of would-be lessors who would love some prime downtown real estate. (I sound snarky, but think about it - the idea does make sense.)

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