City Hall at midtown? Nope, think about Siler Road – Santa Fe New Mexican

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Kim ShanahanBuilding Santa Fe

Kim ShanahanBuilding Santa Fe
I’m pretty sure momentum is one of the laws of nature.
It’s also habitually appropriated by sports announcers and political candidates. Unlike a stone rolling down a hill, a physical truth, political momentum needs a big grain of salt. And so does “momentum” to move City Hall and city functions to the midtown campus.
A week before the recent midtown block party to assess opinions from previous nonrespondents, the story broke of growing momentum to consider relocating City Hall to the site as an anchor for other city services.
The thinking was downtown City Hall in the structure that once held Santa Fe High could be sold to an enterprising hotelier and be reconfigured, not unlike the Drury Hotel taking hold on the site that once held the old St. Vincent Hospital.
That wasn’t a bad idea.
Moving City Hall to the midtown campus is.
The recent block party questionnaires provided by Midtown Moving Forward had five categories: Economy, Equity, Culture, Environment and Government & Community Services Center. The first four were in line with already expressed interests and match the direction the city has already said it intends to go. The fifth option apparently was intended to solidify momentum on a relocated City Hall.
That questionnaire started with obvious answers. Yes, we know city services are scattered around the city. Yes, that is inconvenient. Yes, it would be better if they were all together. But no, we would not “support consolidating services in the center of the city at Midtown with easier access.”
That possibility was so far down the previously expressed desires for the campus that, even if it had been suggested, it never made the final cut of city priorities. Maybe the city thought constituents of Earthcare, YouthWorks and the Chainbreaker Collective would strengthen momentum, but that’s doubtful.
There may be some logic behind those pushing the momentum. If massive new infrastructure is needed for the campus, and it is, a large bond for that work may be more palatable if done for civic structures — rather than private or nonprofit interests providing housing and other services. If that is the rationale, then say so, instead of coyly suggesting there is momentum for something never before considered.
Consolidation has been seriously considered. Money was even spent to buy property to accommodate the idea. Just not at midtown.
Years ago, the city bought a large tract of vacant land behind city buildings on the south side of Siler Road. It was purchased from the late Terry Egbert, a local builder, and it was bought for that expressed purpose.
There’s no doubt a Siler Road location would be more convenient for City Hall than downtown. There’s also no doubt such a major civic investment in the area would stimulate redevelopment in a neighborhood ripe for change.
Such offices and services would be a boon for turning a semi-blighted district of auto body shops and industrial uses into a vital center. Midtown doesn’t need that kind of boost from civic buildings; it’ll have an even better boost someday.
But Siler Road does. It is already starting there. The new Siler Yard apartments and the ones coming soon on Agua Fría Street at the old Ecoversity site speak to maximum walkability. New restaurants and lifestyle services are bound to follow.
Consolidating city services along Siler Road was a great idea. It still is. And way better than the midtown campus.
Kim Shanahan has been a Santa Fe green builder since 1986 and a sustainability consultant since 2019. Contact him at shanafe@aol.com.
Kim ShanahanBuilding Santa Fe
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