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Guidelines of Santa Fe campus development proposed

SANTA FE – Mayor Alan Webber on Thursday announced proposed guidelines for redeveloping the city-owned campus of the now-defunct Santa Fe University of Art and Design, which the mayor called “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

After a months-long process of gathering public comment and concept proposals, the guidelines provide a top five preferred uses for the 64 acres between St. Michael’s Drive and Siringo Road just east of Cerrillos Road.

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Mayor Alan Webber

The site at “the geographic center of the city” offers “unlimited possibilities,” the mayor said.

The five top uses for the site in the guidelines are:
– A “premier, accredited” higher education program, either from a single school or a collaboration along education providers. The University of New Mexico has expressed some interest in joining with a for-profit education in a project at the campus.
– As many as 1,000 units of affordable housing for students and residents, “prioritizing rental units over homes for purchase” and with open spaces and courtyards.
– Film and emerging media production, based around expanding the existing Garson Studios, which remains an active facility for movie and television work, and with an effort to attract a premier film school.
–  Arts and creativity programs leveraging existing facilities like the 550-seat Greer Garson Theatre, The Screen movie theater and the Santa Fe Arts Institute, with possible addition of one or two additional venues like an amphitheater with a 200-600 seating capacity.
–  New business and innovation, with a “strong preference” for a “hub of technology-focused” enterprises and development of physical components like broad-band access, co-working space and a tech-transfer center.

The guidelines, expected to go before the City Council July 25, also include several other possible uses, like upgrading the campus’ Fogleson Library into a “21st century library,” a transit center; senior and child day care; a small health care facility; an art park; a teen center; and combination residential and commercial buildings on St. Mike’s or Cerrillos.

Some ideas brought up during the public comment period were rejected and would be considered “undesired” in the guidelines, including a dog park; city government offices; other “generic” offices or large amounts of retail; large-scale single-family home development; a “contemporary culture center,” considered redundant among existing institutions; and homeless shelters, although job training for the homeless on the site would be encouraged.

“We want the site to become the most creative location in the U.S. where a wide diversity of people interacts and colloborate(s) to find their passions; build their skills for a great career; live in a thriving vibrant neighborhood and city; and create a great future for our community, region and beyond,” the guidelines state.

City government bought in 2009 for $19.5 million after the old College of Santa Fe folded. The for-profit SFUAD, part of Laureate Education, rented the campus before closing at the end of the spring semester. The city still owes $2.2 million annually in debt service.

City Councilor Signe Lindell said city officials are “well aware” of the continuing debt service payments but should take the time “to do this right.”

The guidelines resolution headed for the City Council identifies $160,000 in federal grand money for the planning process and for hiring consultants for work such as developing a land-use or development plan.

Webber said the city will need to develop an oversight or governance system for the campus development that would outlive the tenures of elected officials.

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