Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Santa Fe Mid-Town Campus

The development of an abandoned university campus is Santa Fe’s most important opportunity in decades. We heard Alan Affeldt speak about his proposal at our local bookstore, "Collected Works", which has a regular Sunday program of issues of interest to the community.  Alan is someone who in other places might be called an “operator”.  This project is his most ambitious, but he has learned how to use the system in order to accomplish the preservation and revival of buildings near and dear to the hearts of those who love the story of Fred Harvey, the Harvey Girls and the Harvey Hotels.

Alan was a Peacenik in his youth and money is not his bottom line.  He and his artist wife have no children so they have decided that their legacy would be a foundation they have created to help with, and benefit from, his restoration work.  He has learned how to get government agencies, municipalities, and foundations to help him accomplish his goals through tax breaks and direct aid. I have written about his projects in Las Vegas (New Mexico).

What is known as Santa Fe’s Midtown Campus consists of 64 acres of land. It was the campus of two successive colleges. The failure of the most recent institution offers the opportunity for the first true urban development plan in New Mexico, which ranks as one of the poorest states in the union. Here is one of the proposals for the area.

Affeldt points out that Santa Fe is the only State Capital without a University.  The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque has already expressed interest in bringing part of its program to Santa Fe but does not want to take over the entire campus. There are, however, existing buildings that could be used for students. Further, Affeldt believes that certain buildings on campus are of such distinction that they could be designated as architectural assets to the city. There is also a building with working sound stages and proscenium stage theater that are the legacy of movie star and New Mexico resident Greer Garson.  Here she is standing in front of it ...

Access is a critical issue which I am sure exists else-where but I have never been aware of it.  At this point the campus has one entrance from a main thoroughfare and a second from a side street.  Additional access and egress points need to be obtained through land that belongs to the City, the State and the Federal Governments. Such multiple negotiations are the particular expertise of Affeldt since he has done it several times before.  

For the project that he calls “The Central Park Santa Fe Vision” Affeldt has formed a 40-person team of mostly in- state experts.  One is the internationally known New Mexican architect, Antoine Predock who is counted on to create some landmark buildings. Another local architect on the team is Shawn Evans whose goal is “to untangle the many issues that can impede the vision and execution of a project, so communities have a voice in the process” and this also sums up Affeldt’s way of thinking and desire for a local-based team. He says that “New Yorkers are not going to understand the land of mañana.”  As the joke goes here, mañana does not mean tomorrow, it just means “not today”!

Needless to say, there is competition from all over.  There are 21 proposals in all.  The New Mexican had an article about a Silicon Valley Executive who has made application as he sees the potential for an “innovation center”. It would be easier just to let an outside commercial developer take it off the City’s hands for a fortune, taking care of the debt and interest the city is paying off… Would that be best for the city in the long run?  I don’t think so. One of our great needs is affordable professional housing. People here are nervous about the interest that the expanding Los Alamos National Laboratory may have in the site as we do not want a nuclear weapons facility. 

The system in Santa Fe is that the Mayor and the City Council are fed bits and pieces of the proposals applicants submit to the city ‘s contracted manager in order to make it a blind process.  Personally, I would like to see it more open and transparent, but the feeling is that this is the least prejudicial method.  I am just one of the many concerned citizens anxious to see what happens!

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