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Santa Feans weigh in on ‘campus project’

SANTA FE – Santa Feans would most like to see the Garson Studios continue to be used for film and TV production, a modern 21st Century library and some presence of higher education maintained at the current site of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design after it closes in May. They don’t want to see another dog park or office buildings – especially government office buildings – located on city-owned property near the geographic center of town.

That’s a summary of some of the results from a recent survey that’s part of “The Midtown Campus Project” conducted by the city’s Economic Development Department that aims to help guide city officials in determining how to best use the 64-acres of city-owned prime real estate near the intersection of St. Francis Drive and Cerrillos Road.

The project, announced in January, consists of three phases. The results of the survey concludes the first phase. Next, five design teams will be selected and each paid a $5,000 stipend to carry out the “Visioning” phase, due to conclude sometime in April. The third phase,”Evaluation,” is expected to be completed around May 1.

City officials have expressed a desire to keep a higher education presence at the property, but efforts to attract such an institution have so far been unsuccessful. More than 67 percent of those surveyed either supported or strongly supported a four-year college at the site, while 10 percent were opposed or strongly opposed (the rest were neutral).

Ideas for offering a vocational training school or a “maker space,” where people can gather to “create, invent, and learn,” also received majority support from the respondents.

Nearly half (48 percent) said they’d like to see affordable housing built at the site, while 14 percent didn’t like that idea.

Other suggestions winning the most support were to maintain or improve The Screen movie theater and the campus’ Greer Garson Theatre and building an outdoor amphitheater. Using the property for office space received 12 percent support, while 44 percent were opposed. Fifty-four percent were against building government offices there. While 18 percent said they’d like to see a dog park there, 45 percent were opposed.

The question of what to do with the property has been lingering since last April when Laureate International Universities, which has been leasing the property and running the for-profit university there for the last nine years, announced it would close at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. The city bought the property after the old College of Santa Fe closed in 2009 and is paying $2.2 million a year for the next 17 years to pay off the loan.