Residents Balk at Railyard Hotel

Proposal would turn former Alvord school into 49-room inn

News (Alex De Vore)

Amid Santa Fe’s housing crisis, residents say a proposed hotel for the Railyard district falls short of meeting the community’s needs.

The ENN application from Dallas, Texas-based Alvord Investors proposes a two-story, 49-room inn totaling roughly 51,000 square feet. Lloyd & Associates Architects Project Manager and Studio Coordinator Sheb Mirando, one of the meeting’s hosts and also a member of the City of Santa Fe’s Planning Commission, told residents the project is intended to be “geared for people to stay a longer amount of time” than the typical hotel.

Yet many who attended questioned if a hotel was the best use for the space, citing ongoing challenges with affordable housing in Santa Fe. Nicoletta Munroe told the applicants the plans had changed too much from the original design for the space that former property owner David Barker of Barker Realty—who purchased the lot from the school district—once considered before selling the property, which the neighborhood backed when the master plan was approved in 2018.

“I’ve got an issue with the plan now being a lodge or an inn because the neighborhood originally supported the idea of a live work space,” Munroe said. “I feel that we need to avoid this because right next to the Railyard I don’t think it’s appropriate to develop these kinds of places because we need housing for the public. Your project is inherently not inclusive of the public, and it doesn’t address affordable housing.”

Ellen Ackerman followed shortly after, saying she couldn’t understand why the space wouldn’t be used for affordable housing in light of growing issues with homelessness and workers commuting to the city.

“It seems this is a waste of a place, and we don’t need more tourist housing. We don’t need another hotel. It’s not for Santa Feans, and it’s not for the good of the city,” Ellen Ackerman said. “This is a neighborhood that used to be affordable—parts of it are still affordable. We need workforce housing so our workers do not have to commute from Rio Rancho or Española.”

In response to the feedback, Mirando tells SFR while the applicants recognize the need for affordable housing, using the location for that purpose is easier said than done given the price point of the land and the already approved master plan.

“It would be difficult…if it were apartments or condominiums, it would be much more density. It would be outside of the master plan. It would be as tall and as big as the owner could make it,” he says. “There’s no real way to do other things. As a private development within the master plan, the only thing that would pencil is this use.”

Mirando says the applicants will take the feedback from neighboring residents into consideration as they wrap up the development plan before submission to the city’s Planning Commission. While the timeline remains unclear for when the development plan will be finished or will get a hearing, “we hope to move forward in the fall with the development plan and go to the commission as soon as the city finds it possible,” he says.

Because he is both an applicant and a member of the Planning Commission, Mirando says he will recuse himself from voting on the matter when that does happen.

Andy Duettra, a local developer on the project, thanked people for their time and input near the end of the meeting.

“We are doing our best to help the city improve,” Duettra said. “I know that doesn’t always seem obvious, but we really are.”

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