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Ex-developer backed demolition of SF Midtown buildings

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The future of Santa Fe’s coveted Midtown campus remains a mystery, but many of its current buildings may not survive.

KDC Real Estate Development and Investment/Cienda Partners, the former master developer of the Midtown campus, announced Jan. 21 it would terminate its agreement with the city of Santa Fe because the 64-acre campus had “no commercial value.”

Due to that lack of value, some buildings would likely have to be removed. KDC/Cienda recommended the city demolish 17 buildings on the campus, while preserving eight for any future use, according to a KDC/Cienda report obtained by the Journal.

“The remaining buildings that will not be preserved will need to be demolished to reduce the City’s holding costs and liabilities, and clear a path for new development and users on the campus,” the report states.

Among the buildings recommended to be torn down were all the residence halls and many of the education buildings used in years past. The Midtown campus previously served as home to the College of Santa Fe until 2009, and the Santa Fe University of Art and Design until 2018.

Many of the buildings were constructed as early as the 1960s and very few have undergone significant renovation since then.

Thirteen buildings were classified as being in either poor or bad condition, with another, Luke Hall, being classified as dangerous.

Sam Burnett, a property maintenance manager for the city, said two buildings are currently condemned, but declined to state which ones for fear they would be vandalized.

He also said “poor condition” doesn’t mean the buildings aren’t functional. In some cases, he said, the rehabilitation of the buildings makes them not economically feasible and they are therefore classified as poor.

“Everything is perfectly functional and well maintained,” he said. “It comes down to that cost-benefit equation, that the condition of the building doesn’t make it viable for rehabilitation.”

Some buildings, such as the residence halls, he said, are difficult to reconfigure for commercial purposes so it might be considered more advantageous to tear them down. KDC/Cienda estimated demolition of buildings to cost $500,000 and remediation another $1 million.

Economic Development Director Richard Brown said some buildings will be preserved because they are “cultural icons” of the campus, among them the Fogelson Library.

Which buildings are demolished is ultimately up to the new developer, Burnett said.

Another unknown for the campus is the amount of asbestos left in the buildings. The New Mexico Environment Department conducted a 2011 survey of the campus and found asbestos present in numerous buildings.

Many of the buildings date back to the campus’ founding after World War II when asbestos use in construction was more prevalent.

“It seemed to me that half of those buildings out there had some type of asbestos-containing material,” Allan Morris, compliance and enforcement chief for NMED’s Air Quality Bureau, told the Journal.

NMED records show more than 30 separate abatements were performed on the campus from 2011-19. Burnett said the city is planning an environmental impact study to see how much abatement still needs to be done and what dangerous materials remain.

However, he said all the buildings on campus that aren’t condemned are habitable and do not pose a danger to the public.

For now, the Midtown campus remains as it was, awaiting a developer and a future.

Former city councilor Mike Harris, once heavily involved in the city’s plans for Midtown, said he was disappointed by the campus’ current state.

“It’s a tremendous drain on the City’s resources,” Harris said. “The City of Santa Fe is going to have to probably do more than what they have in the past. If we can’t make that happen, then I think there needs to be a serious discussion about selling the property.”

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