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New Santa Fe County building is ready to go

SANTA FE, N.M. — A mass migration of Santa Fe County employees starts this week when workers from a couple of agencies – the Growth Management/Land Use and Assessor’s Offices – move from the historic county administration building on Grant Avenue to a new complex two blocks away that is still under construction.

Workers have nearly completed the new Santa Fe County Administrative Complex. The IT Department was the first department to move in. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

County officials want the public to know that anyone with business with the county – whether it’s to apply for a building permit, pay property taxes or visit the probate judge – should start getting in the habit of going to the new county complex.

“It’s kind of a one-stop shop for constituents,” Paul Olafson, one of the project managers, said last week.

That’s because most county offices constituents go to are moving to the new location at the site of the old county courthouse over the next few weeks.

Before the month is out, all but the county clerk and treasurer’s offices will have made the move to the new two-story, 62,000-square-foot building within the triangle formed by Grant, Griffin and Catron streets. A building that served as the county courthouse used to stand. Access to the parking lot is from Griffin.

The stairway in the new Santa Fe County administrative building recalls the existing one in the county’s historic building nearby, where the County Commission meets. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“There’s far greater parking than what we currently have,” Olafson said.

There are about 100 parking spaces available for the public and another 100 on the lower level of the parking facility that are for county employees only.

The transition is part of the county’s $27.9 million effort to consolidate its administrative offices in one user-friendly location and create a dual-county campus in downtown Santa Fe.

Homage to Meem

The county will continue to use the current administrative building at 102 Grant Ave., even during renovation of the 80-year-old building, which was designed by renowned Santa Fe architect John Gaw Meem. Meem is credited with popularizing the Pueblo Rival style seen in the historic districts of the 400-year-old city.

Studio Southwest Architects mimicked some of the features of the old building in the new facility, including corbels (albeit made of metal) and a split staircase, which Olafson says pays homage to the staircase at the building Meem designed.

The renovation there, scheduled for completion in June, will replace outdated HVAC and plumbing systems, upgrade technology infrastructure, and restore the original courtyard and main entrance on the Johnson Street side of the building. The older building will continue to house offices for the county manager, county commissioners and their legislative liaisons, the county attorney, and the finance, human resources and risk management departments. Those departments are not typically visited by the general public.

The new building was designed with customer service in mind, says Carmelina Hart, the county’s public information officer.

“Each department will have a public reception area, and everything is color coded to help people find what they’re looking for,” she said. “You’ll be able to help yourself to navigate the building.”

Visitors can visit a circular kiosk or refer to a wall-mounted interactive directory with a map and menu of options to orient themselves and then follow color codes to get where they want to go.

For instance, blue is the color to look for if the assessor’s office is your destination. Strips of blue on walls and counters mark the boundaries of the office, which last month became the first Assessor’s Office in the state to earn the Certificate of Excellence in Assessment Administration from the International Association of Assessing Officers.

Another shade of blue – aqua blue – designates the area occupied by the Growth Management/Land Use Department, and rust identifies the county clerk’s office, which along with the treasurer’s office won’t make the move until after the Nov. 5 election.

The open layout of the building is made to appear even more spacious by numerous windows.

Even some of the interior walls are mostly made of glass.

“It’s transparency, both literally and figuratively,” Hart said.

Anyone who has been inside the current county building knows it’s hard to see the outside world.

“One of the main focuses was to emphasize daylight. That’s for the public and the staff,” Olafson said of the new facility. “And that’s another aspect of the energy efficiency of this building, letting in light.”

Hart said LED lighting throughout the building, a photovoltaic array atop the roof and car charging stations in the parking lot are some of the built-in sustainability features.

“Sustainability was a huge topic of conversation during planning,” Hart added.

She also offered another reason why the new building is constituent-friendly: “It got done on time and within budget,” she said.

Quick turnaround

It only took about a year for the new building to be erected, including the demolition of the old courthouse, which commenced Sept. 28 last year. The first concrete for the new structure was poured in March.

“The project has moved very quickly,” Olafson said.

Tony Flores, the county’s former public works director and deputy county manager who oversaw the project before resigning last month, previously told the Journal that the design-build contract the county signed with Jaynes Corporation of Albuquerque gave the county more control over the project and reduced the number of change orders.

The county’s IT Department is the only department that has made the move so far. That made sense since it provides the electronic infrastructure for the other departments.

“We expect we’ll have a few hiccups,” said Daniel Sanchez, the county’s IT director who, along with Olafson and P.J. Montano, the county’s operation maintenance manager, made up a trio of project managers.

Sanchez said the transition has been a giant undertaking, but it modernizes every department.

“Everything in the facility is definitely an upgrade,” he said.

“Technology has changed so much,” Hart said. “Now we can take advantage of that with this new building.”

The county formally takes possession of the building Nov. 11. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held Nov. 12, the same day the County Commission will hold a meeting at the new complex in a conference room.

Those who would like to attend the meeting in person may have to come early to get a seat, but accommodations will be made for folks to watch from one of the building’s other six conference rooms, which are all equipped with screens, as well as wireless keyboards and computer mouses for when the rooms are used for their intended purpose.

Members of the public also can watch via a link to video on the county’s website

The commission will return to its usual meeting room beneath the colorful Frederico Vigil mural after the old building’s renovation of the 102 Grant Avenue building is completed next summer.

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