A city staff committee has selected two firms for new contracts involving the former campus of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Next, the proposals are due for consideration by city councilors.
Absent hiccups, the firms would begin in their work in early August.
"It's going to be a busy fall and winter this year," Daniel Hernandez, the Midtown project manager, tells SFR. "But we want to show we're moving forward with the project."
A vote for potential contract approval—for Strategic Economics, a woman-owned consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay area, and U3 Advisors of Philadelphia, the firm that will handle community engagement questions—is tentatively planned for the City Council agenda on July 31, after the items have worked their way through the committee process.
If approved, that means the city would pay Strategic Economics, the Bay Area consultant, $325,000 over the next 10 to 12 months to make recommendations about how best to use the 64-acre property. The goal, the city says, is to find the proper ratio of housing, higher education, business, entertainment and other sectors.
"You run different scenarios then look at them and analyze those scenarios and their cost and their impact and their benefits, as a process to identify the optimal scenarios," former Economic Development Director Matt Brown told SFR of the first RFP back in April. Brown left the job on May 24 and the city has yet to hire a replacement.
The second firm, U3 Advisors, will spend three months and $65,000 of public money gathering the thoughts of locals, neighborhood associations, the business community and others to determine exactly what Santa Feans want out of the repurposed campus.
The city also plans to soon ask interested developers to share their ideas through a third process that Hernandez says is intended to increase collaboration. The high number of unknown factors involved in the Midtown project and the number of possibilities for the property motivated the approach, he says.
"Santa Fe could get a variety of responses," Mayor Alan Webber tells SFR. Those proposals could range from a single firm with an all-inclusive plan for the whole property, to several firms with a more piecemeal approach. It depends on the applicants and the findings of the first two consulting firms, he tells SFR. Local developers are a possibility, he adds, but the city is not opposed to firms from across the country.
"I have no interest in the critique that 'Oh, they're out-of-towners, they don't understand Santa Fe,'" Webber says, emphasizing the experience that many national firms have with projects across the world. "They understand sensitivity to localism."
The mayor says he expects a variety of high-quality firms to throw their hats into the ring, calling the project "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
"You almost never get a 60+ acre property in the heart of a historic city," he says.