Longtime Santa Feans can remember when St. Francis Drive pushed through a west side neighborhood to become a thoroughfare. They can recall when St. Michael's Drive was dirt and nothing much was going on south of there. They were here when driving to I-25 on Cerrillos Road felt like a journey into the rural reaches of the county.
There was a time when the Southside wasn't a place at all. But now, this ill-defined part of the city is the part with a surging population of immigrants —and also the place that Santa Fe's Regular Joes and their children call home. Just where it begins and ends remains up for debate. Is it south of Siler Road? West of Cerrillos? North of the Santa Fe Community College?
What's clear is that it's not downtown, it's not the historic east side, and it's not pricey second homes on huge lots looking down from the western mesa.
What began with the city's mid-'90s development of the Tierra Contenta subdivision is steadily transforming into a second city with its own cultural identity and its own set of very real challenges. As established ventures pick up steam, new businesses are also thriving, including big box retailers, fast-food and sit-down restaurants, a national chain coffee shop and sports bar as well as a number of smaller stores, new banks and even a private gym. Although elected officials have crafted elaborate planning documents and used the region as a buzzword in campaigns, services there are still lagging behind other parts of the city. Grocery stores are in short supply, doctors and dentists are practically nonexistent, and schools are full to the brim. Meanwhile, alcohol sales are plentiful and residents say they feel neglected. SFR breaks down the issues: