SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s back to the drawing board after major development plans in the City of Santa Fe hit a snag. In a unanimous vote, the city’s governing body approved mutually terminating its agreement with the master developer for the Midtown project, KDC/Cienda. It comes after the developer sent a letter to Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber requesting the mutual termination. It said the COVID-19 pandemic had made the venture much riskier and costlier than it anticipated.

“Conditions had changed so dramatically from when they started working with the city on the Midtown project that it was time to be very honest with each other and respectful of each other and say if we don’t continue, we’re both likely to do better than if we try to struggle through and overcome these very challenging economic times,” Mayor Webber said.

The project would turn 64 acres of the old campus of the University of Art and Design, which closed in 2018, into a multi-use, urban area, with housing, entertainment, art, and business space. But in the letter to Mayor Webber, KDC/Cienda also said the buildings on the campus were not in great shape and would need about $30 million in public subsidies to replace. The city has requested money from the state legislature to help with infrastructure investments.

“It’s disappointing but I understand there were lessons learned that I’m hoping we really can be applying,” Councilor Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez said in a Special City Council meeting on Thursday. One of the lessons seemingly being the need for more public engagement in the process, a sentiment echoed by multiple councilors in Thursday’s meeting.

“Everything seemed to be held behind close doors even from us. So, I don’t want to see that process in the future, I don’t think it works for the public,” Council JoAnne Vigil Coppler said. “I don’t like to see that kind of process and certainly won’t agree to that kind of process in the future. I think the public really needs to know what we’re doing with that piece of property.”

It’s a piece of property, the city still sees it as a hub of opportunity. “This is a hard thing, but it’s worthwhile. And it’s going to make a big difference to our city’s future and to the future of the families who live here and the kids who want to stay here and have education, jobs, and a future right here in Santa Fe.”

The city pays about $7,000 a day for the property. As for what’s next, Mayor Webber said the city can find a new master developer or work with a series of project developers and transform the property in phases. Seven teams of city staffers and outside consultants are looking into the best way to move forward with the Midtown project and is scheduled to give recommendations to the city council on February 24, 2020.