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.