The Fate of the Former Midtown Campus in the Hands of Santa Fe


Rumors have been flying that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) wants to develop the former Santa Fe University of Art and Design (previously the College of St. Michael’s and the College of Santa Fe) campus, which is owned by the City of Santa Fe, as an auxiliary Lab for research and development and housing for employees.

The first I heard about this possibility was in a press release from Greg Mello of Los Alamos Study Group alerting the public to the presentation by Central Park Santa Fe on Sunday, December 8 at Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe on its bid to develop the site. The city, under a “Request for Expressions of Interest” received 21 applicants under four categories: master developer to oversee the entire campus; project developer to focus on a certain section or buildings on campus; master lessee; and building tenant. Of those, seven applications fell under the master plan category. Central Park Santa Fe is one of the seven groups, as is the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees LANL.

Developer Allen Affeldt, Central Park Santa Fe spokesman, told the crowd (the place was packed as part of Collected Works’ Journey Santa Fe series) that he put together a team of 40 local experts to help him develop a master plan proposal for the 64 acre site. Affeldt’s resume includes the restoration of the Plaza and Casteñada hotels in Las Vegas, New Mexico, the Legal Tender in Lamy, and other work out of state.

Affeldt has no formal connection with LANL, but in an Albuquerque Journal North article, he is quoted saying, “We have important lab presences and we have a tech presence, but we have no spin-offs from that. We can change the reputation of this state to show its high-tech potential, because we’re not capturing that right now.”

In the same article, the Los Alamos Field Office of the NNSA was quoted: “Having a new campus – midway between New Mexico’s two national laboratories – to house professional staff, scientists and engineers in partnership with the City of Santa Fe would be very beneficial. Given NNSA’s strong financial commitment to the State of New Mexico in the coming decade and the urgent need for additional mission space, the Midtown Campus is a logical choice to investigate.”

A spokeswoman for the Field Office claimed that no radiological activities would be performed on the Santa Fe campus. But the new campus would be part of a larger complex to support the Los Alamos facility’s assignment to build 30 new nuclear warhead cores or “pits” per year. It also fits into the proposed new road corridors leading directly from Santa Fe, across the Rio Grande, to Los Alamos, as part of the “New Mexico Innovation Triangle.” Santa Fe Innovation Village, LLC, a partner of Central Park Santa Fe, wants to make Santa Fe one of three proposed “villages” that would make up the triangle to include Los Alamos and Albuquerque. In Mello’s press release he cautioned the city about “falling under LANL’s spell” or “capital investment” that may have unanticipated consequences.

According to Affeldt, his plan for the former college site is “not driven by capital return” but by the need to collaborate with governments and foundations to design a sustainable project. This “urban density development” can incorporate multiple uses that include transportation, parking, power and water development, cultural and academic opportunities, recreation, affordable housing, industry, and parks.

Slides provided an overview of what the site looks like now. There are one-half million square feet of empty buildings on the site: former dormitories, classrooms, offices, the Greer Garson Theater, and small apartments. He referred to most of it as “brutalic architecture,” with a few buildings that are archeologically significant. There are only two roads into the campus: from St. Michael’s Drive near Cerrillos, and Siringo Road near Santa Fe High School. According to Affedlt, the city is currently spending $10,000 a day to maintain this unused site.

Affeldt emphasized that any sustainable development needs to be one of urban density, with much of the needed resources, like transportation, power and water, developed on site. Within this urban area people can work, live, walk, and recreate. He claimed his team of experts collaborating on this project can figure out how to put all these uses together “synergistically.”

He spelled out specific uses for each area of the site in another series of slides. On the western side of the property, where the Greer Garson Theater is located, the proposal calls for a cultural and performance center. The theater could be used as a film production site as well, to keep the burgeoning film industry in Santa Fe. Parking for these kinds of activities would be kept on the perimeter of the site, near the entrance from St. Michael’s Drive, to maintain the interior of the site pedestrian friendly.

Photo by Robin Collier of Cultural Energy, who recorded Affeldt’s presentation. Go to

Academic use of the site would be encouraged: the United World College is looking for a site in Santa Fe, and the University of New Mexico could quickly develop an adjunct program here. Existing buildings could be used as office space for technological firms. Without a prompt, he told the audience “he doesn’t work for LANL . . . and was not going to build a laboratory.” Many other industries such the health care industry, could use the existing buildings or design their own.

Because the master plan calls for urban density development, potential housing would focus on townhouses, four or five stories high (the city’s height restriction), of apartments or studios focused on “intergenerational living.” The small, existing apartments could be renovated as studios for co-housing with common areas for cooking. He showed slides of the work of the prominent New Mexican architect, Antoine Predock, who has previously designed innovative living apartments and who is part of the development team. A 200 room hotel is also planned.

The southeastern side of the campus is partially owned by the United States Forest Service, and Affeldt’s team is currently negotiating to buy that property to provide access from Camino Carlos Rey. The team envisions a plaza on this side of the campus to supplement Santa Fe’s main plaza, with Franklin Miles Park, on the south side, as the anchor. Here, a festival park, with a stage, could offer a venue for bands that now go to Taos or Albuquerque (he pointed out that the only other outdoor concert venue in the city, Palo Soleri, shut down years ago).

The plan envisions six ways in and out of the site if the team is able to acquire additional city and state properties on the south side. The Albuquerque Journal reported  on Monday, December 9, that the City Council’s Public Works Committee voted to pursue a land swap with the state that would transfer five tracts of property—19.6 acres—that border the campus on the Siringo side to the city. The swap has not been approved by the full council or the state.

One of the first questions asked during the question and answer period was how Affeldt would be able to provide affordable housing. His answer was that there has to be community equity involved in the project: city government has to be a partner with the developer. Another question was tied to this one: if a project like this, even if it can provide affordable housing, contributes to the increase of adjacent property values, how can gentrification be avoided? The answer was largely theoretical: if the high unemployment neighborhoods adjacent to the site accrue value from this project they need to work in concert with the Housing Trust and community foundations like the Santa Fe Community Foundation to maintain affordability.

A woman in the audience again brought up the issue of LANL, asking if the Lab would have a presence here. Affeldt answered that he was a former anti-war activist who doesn’t want to see any nuclear activity here but can’t legally say that “spin-offs” from LANL could be prevented from locating here.

Finally, in response to a question about community input to this project, Affeldt claimed that the city has “done a lot of input into this.” He said the city will make its decision by January 15 of 2020, but it will probably take months beyond that to finalize an agreement.

I called Kevin Kellogg, who oversees the campus for the city, to ask about the Lab’s “Request for Expressions of Interest ” and if and how the city has solicited input from the community on the campus’s potential development, but he didn’t return my call or respond to an e-mail.






  1. I wrote Webber a one liner, more or less “Having the Lab in the midtown project is a lousy idea” and got 3 official answers! Good to have this backup.

    12/10/19 1:05 PM, La Jicarita wrote:

    > > lajicarita posted: “By KAY MATTHEWS Rumors have been flying that Los > Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) wants to develop the former Santa Fe > University of Art and Design (previously the College of St. Michael’s > and the College of Santa Fe) campus, which is owned by the Cit” >

  2. Thanks you for this report Kay!
    No to more LANL nuclear weapons lab colonialism in Santa Fe or anywhere else in NM. They’ve already got our major universities and some smaller colleges.
    and more and more….

    Here is one of a number of recent articles on the recently completed ICAN research:

  3. Joni Arends

    December 7, 2019 at 10:43 am

    With respect to LANL’s proposal for Midtown: There are contaminated sites in Santa Fe already from LANL related activities. We don’t need any more. LANL has demonstrated over many decades their patterns and practices of disregard for the health and safety of Santa Fe residents. Below are three examples. There are others, but not as well documented. The three sites are the Eberline site on Airport Road, the Nuclear Laundry on Siler Road, and the Caja del Rio landfill. Please share this information with your friends and family.

    1. The abandoned Eberline site on Airport Road. John Dendahl, former Republican NM Chair, was a vocal opponent of Bill Richardson when he was the D3 Congressman, as well as when he was Governor. Dendahl had an important role in Eberline. Here’s a link to Aaron Cantu’s 2017 excellent Santa Fe Reporter article about community concerns about the Eberline site – Excerpts below:

    “Until a decade ago, the Eberline plant made radiation detection equipment that it shipped to nuclear facilities all over the world. The plant’s founder, Howard Clayton Eberline, had imagined in the 1950s that Santa Fe would supply the instruments to facilitate the nuclear energy revolution.

    “Howard Clayton Eberline, who started off at LANL and was later part of the team that designed and built devices to measure the world’s first hydrogen bomb test, hoped that his new private company would become ‘part of the great adventure that is atomic energy,” from prospecting to mining, from power reactors “to miracles yet unseen.’ When he left the company in 1963, Eberline workers had measured radiation from nuclear explosions at the Nevada nuclear testing site and at the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

    “By 1982, The Santa Fe New Mexican described Eberline as the city’s largest private employer. That gave more clout to its already-powerful corporate leadership. John Dendahl, the late descendant of a prominent local family who would later become chairman of New Mexico’s Republican Party, was named president of Eberline Instruments in the 1970s and held prestigious board memberships at the First National Bank of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Opera Foundation, among others.

    “After finding in 2007 that Thermo Fisher failed to maintain adequate records of radioactive material going in and out of the Eberline building, New Mexico’s Environment Department allowed the company to supply radiation monitors to city government and emergency workers around the state in lieu of a $51,000 fine.

    “After reviewing the plans to transport the americium [stored at Eberline] out of the area, nuclear energy expert and whistleblower Paul Blanch tells SFR the state’s Radiation Control Bureau appears to have defied strict safety standards established by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A plan of action from the Environment Department shows it was planning to transport the americium in a pickup truck with a boxy steel storage frame.

    “‘If they just bypassed all the regulations and took it to Los Alamos, it’s not the proper thing to do, but was probably the safest thing to do to get that shit out of Santa Fe,” Blanch says.

    “The reported amount of stored americium was enough to deliver millions of fatal radiation doses via a ‘dirty bomb.’”

    2. The Nuclear Laundry – Uni Tech Services Group, Inc. – at 1310 Siler Road.

    Nuclear Laundry Dumping Radioactive Material into Santa Fe Sewage System, by Susan Hirshberg, of CCNS (Winter 1996)

    “Community Celebrates Major Environmental Victory as City of Santa Fe Temporarily Shuts Down ‘Nuclear Laundry’ (May 14, 1996) Excerpt below.

    “Because of testimony and documentary evidence that INS had cheated on previous water analyses and had lied to safety inspectors, CCNS also requested that the HRMB require independent water analysis for radioactivity contamination for at least a probationary period and to not allow the facility to operate until the new equipment was in place. The bureau refused this request and instead entered into an agreement with INS before the hearings based on the new license conditions.

    “As a result of the pre-hearing deal with INS, the HRMB did not present to the hearing officer the testimony of three former plant employees concerning repeated safety violations at INS. This omission was particularly disturbing because CCNS had brought this evidence to HRMB’s attention and it had been verified by the State investigation. The bureau also did not introduce into evidence testimony of corporate level involvement in intentional safety violations nor some of the test results showing off-site contamination by INS. Throughout the hearings the NMED Bureau worked closely with INS attorneys to try and prevent hearing officer Tito Madrid from learning all the facts of repeated and intentional safety violations at INS.

    “As a result, CCNS attempted to play an active role in the license renewal hearings, presenting evidence of violations at INS which the HRMB had withheld from the hearing officer. In the future CCNS will continue its efforts to have HRMB officials or the Attorney General’s office investigate why the HRMB withheld evidence from the hearing officer and tried to prevent citizens and former employees from testifying at these public hearings.

    “A recommendation on INS’s license application will be made by Hearing Officer Tito Madrid by mid October. A final decision on the license renewal application will be made by the Secretary of the Environmental Department later this fall.:

    The laundry is still there. Their work is limited to preparing LANL workers’ protective clothing for shipment to another site for cleaning. Unfortunately, I don’t have the latest information about this site.

    3. The recent disposal of contaminated roofing materials that LANL contractors brought to the Caja del Rio landfill. The full article is copied below.

    LANL faces state penalties over waste violations

    By Andy Stiny |
    Nov 29, 2018

    The New Mexico Environment Department is accusing Los Alamos National Laboratory of violating state regulations and its hazardous waste permit by sending tons of construction waste to the Caja del Rio Landfill in Santa Fe and other sites without proper notification and labeling.

    “Due to the nature and severity of the violations … and LANL’s past history of noncompliance,” the state agency says in a letter to lab officials dated Nov. 5 — just days after a new contractor took over operations — it is seeking penalties that could include fines of up to $10,000 per day for each violation, as well as a state District Court injunction and revocation or suspension of permits.

    Officials from the lab and the Environment Department declined to comment on any settlement amount being discussed.
    Along with Caja del Rio, the state agency’s letter says, some of the material from renovation and demolition projects at the lab was sent to the Los Alamos Landfill and to facilities in Albuquerque and Colorado between 2015 and 2017.

    A lab spokesman said in an email that out of thousands of hazardous waste containers shipped during that time, four were found to have “previously unreported administrative discrepancies” in documentation and labeling.

    “At no time was the public or the environment at risk from hazardous material,” the email said.

    “While that record represents well over a 99% success rate,” the email said, “we believe we can and must do better. We are analyzing our waste characterization process to identify process improvements to assist us develop more accurate and complete shipping manifests.”

    Still, at least one local public official was irate that the lab’s waste violations were not made public.

    Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen, who represents the district that includes the Caja del Rio Landfill, said she obtained a copy of the Environment Department’s letter from a constituent earlier this week. “I think it’s frightening that nobody knows about this,” Hansen said. “I’m not happy.”

    She was concerned about the possibility of contamination from the dumping, she said, adding, “This is a tendency for LANL to think they can do things without being responsible to the citizens of our county.”

    In response to Hansen’s criticisms, an Environment Department spokeswoman said in an email that “NMED generally doesn’t issue press releases when it is addressing enforcement matters.”

    The New Mexican reported a year ago that Los Alamos saw a significant drop in violations of its state hazardous waste permit in fiscal year 2017, with 25 infractions compared to 100 the previous year.

    In 2014, the state levied $36.6 million in penalties against the U.S. Department of Energy and private contractors for a string of violations that led to a radiation leak that shuttered the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Southern New Mexico. An improperly packed waste container from Los Alamos had burst in the underground storage site.

    On Nov. 1, a new consortium, the nonprofit Triad National Security LLC, took over operations of the lab from Los Alamos National Security LLC following a yearslong series of management and safety concerns. Triad members include Battelle Memorial Institute, the Texas A&M University System and the University of California. The UC system also was a partner in LANS.

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