Santa Fe's long-awaited Southside Teen and Resource Center is one of the few projects that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham spared as she slashed thousands from the capital outlay budget in the face of the quickly evolving COVID-19 outbreak and plummeting oil prices.
The state has appropriated $3.91 million to the city toward building the center. At a City Council meeting last week, Mayor Alan Webber applauded the governor's decision to prioritize kids and green infrastructure, including electric vehicles for the Santa Fe city fleet.
Santa Fe's Director of Public Works Regina Wheeler tells SFR the teen center was the second top priority on the governing body's list of funding requests. She says Santa Fe is desperately in need of a safe space for teenagers to meet for activities without having to find their way downtown.
"The demographics of the town have changed. There used to be a lot of teens downtown, but now the population of teens has moved to the Southside, and we need the resources we have for kids to reflect that," she says.
Santa Fe has not had any city-owned center for teens since Warehouse 21, located in the Santa Fe Railyard area next to SITE Santa Fe, closed its doors last year. Warehouse 21 focused on providing a space for kids to express themselves creatively and build community. Among its many offerings were computers for kids to learn programming and media editing, a recording studio, art classes such as screen printing, youth art exhibitions and concerts.
Wheeler says the new Southside Teen and Resource Center will include a multi-purpose gym space, a lounge space, classrooms, and offices for community support staff. The classrooms, she says, could be used for any number of activities including some with the kind of creative focus that was the hallmark of Warehouse 21.
The city plans to build the center at Zona del Sol next to the Boys and Girls Club. Eventually, the city hopes to transform the whole area into a "multi-generational resource campus" that will incorporate the Boys and Girls Club, the library across the street and the new teen center, Wheeler says. Going forward, she envisions the city could build a senior center there as well.
Wheeler says the city is currently in the process of evaluating its options for the procurement process and is likely to issue a request for proposals for the design and building process by late June, but won't actually get the money from the state until September.
The governor also saved $750,000 for electric vehicle and charging station infrastructure in Santa Fe—another of the top 10 priorities for the governing body this year. Expansion of the Santa Fe Airport was the city's first priority but did not get funded. Wheeler says the city will go ahead with some of the planned expansion projects with funding from other sources.
She says the electric vehicles are good news for Santa Fe's sustainability goals.
"Really, electric vehicles hit two birds with one stone," says Wheeler. "It makes the city more sustainable, and it supports an industry built on the green economy that is counter-cyclical to the oil boom and bust cycle."
She says the money comes at a "really good time," because the city in in the middle of its budgeting process and has to consider buying new cars anyway.
Neal Denton, the city's Sustainability Planner, says he can't give an exact amount because prices for charging infrastructure vary greatly, but he estimates the money from the state could buy as many as 23 new electric vehicles. Every time a vehicle in the city's fleet needs to be replaced, it will be replaced with an electric car.
The vehicles fit right into the city's 25-year sustainability plan, which includes a goal to convert the entire city fleet into electric vehicles by 2025, says Denton.
Even including the emissions from creating the electricity to power to cars (which is still partly coal-powered), Denton says the new vehicles will result in a 70% reduction in emissions.
The charging stations will be at city buildings and primarily reserved for city use, though Denton says he has proposed to build several charging stations that are "public-facing" in city lots.