May 4—SANTA FE, N.M. — One of northern New Mexico's most well-known developers is raising criticism over the city of Santa Fe's handling of the Midtown Campus, 64 acres of city-owned property left largely vacant after the Santa Fe University of Art and Design closed in 2018.
Allan Affeldt, best known for restoring the historic Plaza and Castañeda hotels in Las Vegas, New Mexico, in 2019 submitted a proposal to the city to be Midtown's master developer as part of a group of dozens of community leaders known as Central Park Santa Fe. The city ultimately selected Texas-based KDC/Cienda, which has since relinquished its role in the property's development.
Now, Affeldt has released the details of his group's proposal and said he's concerned the city isn't making the most of its opportunity at Midtown. He told the Journal there are few other development opportunities that close to the Santa Fe's downtown.
"If (the city doesn't) get it right, then that opportunity will be lost to the community forever," Affeldt said. "It's not a trivial infill project."
The details of Affeldt's "Central Park Santa Fe" proposal mirror many of the priorities named by city leaders: university buildings, film studios, mixed commercial shops and affordable housing are present.
Numerous local organizations and business leaders, including several who would become part of the Central Park Santa Fe development team, expressed support for the plan.
However, members of the public have not seen Midtown proposals developers sent the city. Economic Development Director Rich Brown cited a state statute that forbids governments from releasing proposals during a negotiation process. Brown declined requests for an interview.
Affeldt said he and other developers were instructed by the city not to release their proposals, or else they could be disqualified from the selection process. He added that he believed the public can — and should — be allowed to see proposals.
"We would have given them a waiver and said, 'We're not going to sue you,'" he said. "We put so much love and effort into this, and for it to just be buried with no one ever seeing it, strikes me as a real tragedy."
KDC/Cienda announced in January it wanted to pull out of the project, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and the campus' long standing infrastructure issues. Many of the buildings, it said, would probably have to be demolished.
Brown said at the time the city would restart the process of finding a master developer. However, the city later announced it would forgo finding a master developer and focus on refurbishing the campus for development.
Affeldt said he's doubtful the campus could include public facilities —like parks and performance space — without an overall master plan, and that he fears Midtown will resemble many of the strip malls that currently surround the campus.
"How do you spend money coherently on infrastructure in the absence of a master plan?" he asked.