UNM, Department of Energy among those with ideas for SF campus

SANTA FE – Santa Fe city government has received 21 “expressions of interest” for development of the city-owned Midtown Campus off St. Michael’s Drive, ranging from local organizations to the University of New Mexico, the local office of the branch of the U.S. Department of Energy that oversees Los Alamos National Laboratory, a Singapore-based for-profit education group and out-of-state developers.

In a meeting with reporters Friday afternoon, Mayor Alan Webber called the responses very strong and said they “confirm our conviction that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our city.”

He added that the quality of the submissions shows that the campus “won’t be “having to settle” when choosing among plans for the 64-acre property.

City government, though, will keep confidential the details of what’s been suggested for the campus, most recently home of the defunct Santa Fe University of Art and Design. The offerers themselves can disclose on their own, however.

Over the past two years, the city has taken the legal stance that bids for city contracts can’t be made public until a winning bid is approved by the City Council, to protect bidders’ proprietary information. Webber said that view likely will govern consideration of proposals for the campus land.

But Webber and Daniel Hernandez, principal of the Proyecto development advisory firm who is working on the project, said general descriptions of the ideas presented to the city — without attaching them to any specific group or company — would be discussed as the City Council considers what to do. It’s likely the council will begin holding study sessions on the campus development early next year, Hernandez said.

“This has to be the right mix of uses, with academic uses as a key driver, along with housing, business and technology, entertainment, and neighborhood servicing retail to create a vibrant mixed-use district where people can live, work, learn and play,” Hernandez said in a written statement. “In addition, housing affordability for Santa Fe households and other community development objectives will inform much of the review and evaluation process.”

Webber said it was Hernandez’s idea to solicit “expressions of interest” rather than formal proposals set in stone. That gives the city more flexibility to discuss changes or improvements as the submissions are considered, he said.

Hernandez said a likely first deal reached will be an “exclusivity agreement” with a master developer responsible for developing the entire site who could work with other offerers. The city would prefer selling the site, but a “master lease” is also an option.

Master developer submissions came from Central Park Santa Fe; the Los Alamos Field Office of DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration; KDC Real Estate and Investments/Cienda Partners of Dallas; Raffles Education Corp. of Singapore, which has expressed interest in the campus before; Santa Fe Innovation Village; Specialized Capital Partners of Chicago and Zydeco Development of Santa Fe.

Some of the other Santa Fe entities which submitted responses are Advent Life Church; the Homewise affordable housing non-profit; the Santa Fe Art Institute, already located on the campus; the Santa Fe Recovery Center, currently leasing former student apartments on the campus for residential drug treatment; the Santa Fe Council on International Relations; Santa Fe Sound Studios; Garson Studios Santa Fe, the professional movie studio on the campus; and Nurses With Heart.

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