Evolution of the Sante Fe Railyard – the New Plaza

Click here to read the article.

Kudos to Conrad Skinner for a job well done! Trying to tell the story of the Railyard in a few words is ambitious. See The Santa Fe New Mexican Bienvendios, 2015 Summer Guide.

I appreciate receiving acknowledgement as one of the leaders of the process that enabled people of wildly different views of what should happen at the Railyard to ultimately negotiate a build-able plan. One group wanted nothing to happen, and one group wanted to stop the train at Alta Vista and redevelop the Railyard with six story buildings. It was my idea to bring the American Institute of Architects’ Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) to help the citizens of Santa Fe plan the Railyard but it took the help of 600 others to implement the idea. 

Two of my closest cohorts were Suby Bowden, AIA and Lisette Ellis, AIA then President of the Santa Fe chapter of the AIA.The R/UDAT community planning process also would never have happened without the full support of then-mayor Debbie Jaramillo. When I presented the idea to bring the R/UDAT to Santa Fe to them, they got the benefit immediately and pledged their support, and the R/UDAT would have never happened without them.  The R/UDAT community planning process also would never have happened without the full support of then-mayor Debbie Jaramillo. Yes, I “laboriously” stitched together the R/UDAT, which resulted in the Community Plan, but with lots and lots of help from my two cohorts, the Santa Fe chapter of the AIA, the sadly, now defunct, Santa Fe Land Use Resource Center, the City of Santa Fe Planning staff, and the Metropolitan Redevelopment Commission. I think it is important to not the AIA and the R/UDAT members worked tirelessly as volunteers.

Now I look back nearly 20 years and see this as an almost magical time, but it wasn’t magic, it was hard work and lots of time setting up venues for fair and transparent conversations and presentations, setting up meetings so that the citizens could be empowered with the information necessary to plan 50 acres of land, and attending meeting after meeting designing a process that would give the citizens of Santa Fe the information and power to design the Railyard. We did that. I am proud of our efforts. To some it is not perfect. That’s right. It is not perfect. But you can stand in the Railyard Plaza and see the mountains thank to this process. You can take a train to the depot thanks to this process. You can buy your vegetables at the Farmers Market, see a movie in the park or at the Theater, go to a Teen performance, and find parking – albeit underground, thanks to this process. You can ride your bike to the Railyard on a trail thanks to this community planning process. I am grateful that I got to be a part of it and to experience community coming together for the greater good, for all of Santa Fe.

In regards to my comment on the Park and the small but mighty Railyard Stewards: We are the group formed out of the New Mexico Advisory Council convened by the Trust for Public Land as they implemented the Conservation Easement that protects the open space at the Railyard and subsequently took on the task of designing, funding and building the Park, Plaza and Alameda. The Railyard Stewards now assist the City of Santa Fe by taking care of horticultural needs and special programming for the Park, Plaza and Alameda. One of our goals is to continue answering the question of what a public park should be during times of drought and the hotter and drier climate we are facing and also in the midst of tremendous open space opportunities just outside of town. In 2013 we held two Urban Forestry workshops in partnership with the City of Santa Fe as a result of a grant from the Forestry Division of the State of New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to find out what needs to be done to improve our community forests, meaning the forest in a our backyards and along our streets. I am not an expert on what happens to a landscape due to a hotter, drier climate but the desertification of our landscapes seems to me a logical threat. I hope as a community we will face this change gracefully and fairly.

Thanks for the opportunity to expand the list of those that worked laboriously on the Railyard. We owe a great deal of thanks to the citizens of Santa Fe who were able to put aside their characterizations of each other as “no-growth, pro-growth, NIMBY” etc. to have real conversations about their town, and we owe a great deal of thanks to those that designed the process so the conversations could happen. This included telephone surveys and home visits so that the citizens that can’t or choose not to participate in public meetings were also heard.  Santa Fe seems ripe for another conversation/process around density and the the next 20 years of development, and I look forward to participating in the conversation, now perhaps by an app on my phone!

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