Santa Fe legislators seek curbs on parcel’s redevelopment

Santa Fe is the hometown of the state’s two most powerful legislators, and they are using their collective might to try to restrict what can be developed on the downtown parcel that’s now home to Garrett’s Desert Inn and Santa Fe Bite restaurant. Speaker of the House Brian Egolf and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth […]

Santa Fe legislators seek curbs on parcel’s redevelopment

Santa Fe is the hometown of the state’s two most powerful legislators, and they are using their collective might to try to restrict what can be developed on the downtown parcel that’s now home to Garrett’s Desert Inn and Santa Fe Bite restaurant.

Speaker of the House Brian Egolf and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth grew up in and around Santa Fe’s Historic District, so they have written Senate Bill 409 to protect it. The measure would shape redevelopment at 311 Old Santa Fe Trail.

The New Mexico State Land Office acquired the 2.7 acres in a land swap. State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn said there is interest from developers across the country in a 60-year lease with the state to bring in retail, residential and commercial tenants.

The property sits 1,000 feet from the Plaza and in the middle of the city of Santa Fe’s Historic District, which is governed by the Historic Design Ordinance that promotes Spanish-Pueblo Revival and Territorial architectural styles. If the Garrett’s site were not owned by the state, any project would be subject to the city ordinance, which includes height and density restrictions similar to other private buildings in and around downtown Santa Fe.

Dunn said his office has an obligation to maximize the return for the property’s beneficiary, The University of New Mexico. He told those interested in the project that he wants them to honor Santa Fe building and design codes, but he would be able to move a project forward if the restrictions became unreasonable. Representatives of the city of Santa Fe will be among those who help rank the bidders, Dunn said, but he will make the final selection.

Egolf and Wirth, though, have a different vision for protecting Santa Fe’s Historic District. Their bill would subject state building projects to local and municipal government standards, such as the design, construction, alteration or demolition of the exterior features.

Wirth told a Senate committee that the bill would prevent a 10-story building on the Garrett’s site that would detract from the surrounding architecture. The measure has cleared two Senate committee — with Republicans largely in opposition — and now heads to the full Senate.

Egolf said Monday that tourism, preservation and architecture are an important part of why tourists visit Santa Fe.

“I would hate to see something done with that tract that would detract from Santa Fe,” he said.

Wirth is the grandson of architect John Gaw Meem, and used to sit on the board of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation. Meem helped design buildings such as the Christo Rey Church and Zimmerman Library at The University of New Mexico, and he headed a committee in 1957 that authored Santa Fe’s historic district ordinance.

Egolf still lives in the house where he grew up, just north of downtown, and is a past winner of the city of Santa Fe’s Historic Preservation Award. Such personal ties to the state capital’s historic core have motivated both legislators to try to make certain that city standards are honored in any redevelopment.

Dunn’s office is set to put out a request for bids in May with the award selection scheduled for late August. Proposals include those who want to see a hotel at the site, and others who are proposing a mixed-use project for both commercial and residential tenants. A retirement community is also interested in the lease.

The Land Office has determined that a fair price would start at $250,000 a year. The deal would include annual increases and perhaps a share of any gross revenues.

“It’s unfortunate, but if the bill passes, we may be forced to leave Garrett’s the way it is, which would undermine my efforts to generate additional revenue for The University of New Mexico, which is the beneficiary of the property,” Dunn said in a statement.

“The unfounded rumors about a 10-story building to be built are creating hysteria and jeopardizing my efforts to earn revenue for UNM,” he added.

Managers at the Land Office said a 2009 state law approved after a Santa Fe neighborhood dispute establishes a process for permitting state projects inside the city’s historic districts. But that only applies to buildings funded with public money. The winner of the bid for 311 Old Santa Fe Trail would likely have private financing.

Contact Bruce Krasnow at [email protected]

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced on Thursday his legislative priorities for July’s special legislative session, including the creation of a crime victim’s unit to…
Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Democrat from Silver City, won’t seek reelection in the general election in November, leaving SD 28, a swing…
Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Supreme Court denied and dismissed the effort to challenge six laws enacted in 2023. The New Mexico Supreme…

A rare NM lizard is now listed as endangered

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the dunes sagebrush lizard to the list of endangered species on Friday and is expected to designate…
Interior announces $520 million of funding for water projects

Interior announces $520 million of funding for water projects

The U.S. Department of Interior announced $520 million in funding for 57 projects throughout the United States to improve water infrastructure and drought resiliency…
Survivors, advocates plead for Speaker to allow RECA expansion vote

Survivors, advocates plead for Speaker to allow RECA expansion vote

Millie Chino of Laguna Pueblo teared up as she spoke about her spouse, who died in September due to a health condition linked to…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican A challenging task awaits New Mexico lawmakers in the next 30 days: Reconciling three very different…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

Thursday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a land acquisition for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare center, that will include abortion care,…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Democrat from Silver City, won’t seek reelection in the general election in November, leaving SD 28, a swing…
Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

A recent study found that in the 20 years since Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to grant same-sex marriage licenses, same-sex…
UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

Thursday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a land acquisition for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare center, that will include abortion care,…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Democrat from Silver City, won’t seek reelection in the general election in November, leaving SD 28, a swing…
Progressives going after incumbents in hot Democratic primaries

Progressives going after incumbents in hot Democratic primaries

By Justin Horwath, NM In Depth It’s a safe bet Democrats will barrel into 2025 with their supremacy intact at the New Mexico Legislature.…
Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Supreme Court denied and dismissed the effort to challenge six laws enacted in 2023. The New Mexico Supreme…
Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

A recent study found that in the 20 years since Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to grant same-sex marriage licenses, same-sex…
UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

Thursday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a land acquisition for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare center, that will include abortion care,…
Interior announces $520 million of funding for water projects

Interior announces $520 million of funding for water projects

The U.S. Department of Interior announced $520 million in funding for 57 projects throughout the United States to improve water infrastructure and drought resiliency…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report