Updated: Nov 11, 2021
The midtown party showed how to engage
The New Mexican | Oct 27, 2021
What if you had a party and no one came?
Fortunately, that’s not what happened Saturday in Santa Fe, when the city and others threw a block party to consider the future of a critical 64 acres right in the middle of town. Obviously, we’re talking about the midtown campus. More than 800 community residents showed up to ponder the possibilities for redeveloping what once was the College of Santa Fe, and later, the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. More heartening about the attendees? Many were not the usual suspects.
Though Santa Fe has a vigorous community of people who like to comment, write letters and speak up in public hearings, there also is a silent majority who are either too busy or too skeptical of the system to participate. They sometimes have good ideas, but they share them only at the kitchen table or on Facebook, not with the mayor or City Council in public hearings.
If the campus is to realize its potential, a broader section of the community must be involved in envisioning the best future for this slice of Santa Fe. On Saturday, unlike previous efforts, it looks like efforts to engage underrepresented communities paid off. As impatient as we have been with the many delays, Santa Fe has to get this right. That includes both the planning for what might be built at the abandoned campus and improvements to the nearby roads and other infrastructure that are critical to any redevelopment.
Preliminary observations, interestingly, still show that people have a consistent vision for the former campus. Final results will take a few weeks to compile, but people who participated on Saturday — including those from low-income communities, families with small children and people of color — wanted affordable housing at the top of the list and developments that would lead to jobs. Partygoers thought of the whole, too, wanting community services as part of the development. That would mean services for young children and senior citizens close by, as well as public spaces for civic gatherings and programming for cultural events. Participants also value parks and green spaces, and think the campus should be connected to Franklin E. Miles Park in an eco-friendly manner.
There remains an interest in repurposing Fogelson Library as a public library and a desire to create a mixed-use district that will feel like an organic part of Santa Fe.
In other words, the city gathered much information with which to work. Although we still don’t see a great grassroots desire to move City Hall to the middle of town, a plan that seems to be gaining favor in some quarters, that’s also a possibility.
In any case, planning is ongoing, and anyone who wants to be part of the process should visit midtowndistrictsantafe.com. These are baby steps, but progress. We wait anxiously for the action portion, when a vital center of Santa Fe experiences rebirth and renewal.