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Santa Fe City Hall project put on hold

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – COVID-19 has put plans for a new City Hall in Santa Fe on hold, but officials still expect the new building to come with a large price tag.

According to a list of capital projects for the city, that price tag is $40 million. The new building would replace the city’s current aging City Hall, as well as consolidate offices now housed in more than 100 city-owned buildings across Santa Fe.

Public Works Director Regina Wheeler told the Journal the high price is based on recently constructed city halls in similarly sized cities, citing Las Cruces as a prime example.

“It’s a city of similar size and function,” she said.

But Las Cruces’ City Hall, completed in 2010, cost significantly less – around $26 million. Adjusted for inflation, the total cost was around $30 million in present-day dollars. So far, Santa Fe has no money allocated to the City Hall project.

Wheeler said planning for the new City Hall hasn’t gone beyond looking at comparable cities, since the pandemic has created so many delays. The project was expected to start in January, but a new start date has yet to be determined.

“I’d say we probably start planning in earnest in a year and a half,” Wheeler said.

The pandemic presented Santa Fe with an unprecedented fiscal crisis as the city is still working itself out of a projected $82 million budgetary shortfall. Those fiduciary challenges have delayed many city projects scheduled for the next several months.

Wheeler said the price might change once a location for the new City Hall is officially selected.

Currently, City Hall is located in a repurposed school building in the crowded downtown area, but officials are seeking a location in the heart of the city that would be more accessible to residents. Wheeler said an area owned by the city on Siringo Road is the one of the main options, along with the Midtown Campus.

The city still has not released a specific plan for the Midtown Campus, but has stated it can be used for housing, art, film and other features once completed. Wheeler said city buildings could be among the features added to the campus.

“It can’t be all civic space,” she said. “It’s definitely being considered in that mix.”

She stressed, though, that a new City Hall comes second to helping the city and its residents through the pandemic.

“It’s a lower priority than meeting our immediate needs, that’s for sure,” she said.

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