The Railyard – Then to Now
On February 9, 1880 the first train pulled into the capital city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company made its journey to Santa Fe on a spur line, built because mountain ranges and Santa Fe’s 9,000 foot elevation prevented Santa Fe from being on the main line.
The arrival of the train signaled the end of the Santa Fe Trail era. Goods that were previously available only by the arduous cross-country journey on the Santa Fe Trail became plentiful.
The train also brought tourism to Santa Fe. Throughout the west, hotels and trading posts were developed along the train’s path, and Santa Fe was no exception. The train brought visitors and newcomers to Santa Fe, but it also brought economic opportunity to residents and offered a social center similar to the Plaza.
By the 1940s the Santa Fe Railyard was an active center for the locals in Santa Fe. Neighbors, still living next to the Railyard today, remember those afternoons picking wild lettuce and swimming along the acequia. The Railyard was the place where people came during the Depression to be given free meat from the warehouses; there was ice skating in the winter; and it was the performance site for the travelling circus.
Click here to view an 11-minute video on the public process and the rationale for the design paradigm.
1980s The 1980s were a boom-time for growth in Santa Fe; the period also became a time of great planning. In ten years, Santa Fe developed the citywide General Plan, the Business Capitol District Plan and several other plans that would impact the Railyard area.
1985 Mayor Montaño announced a plan to develop the Railyard.
1987 Trust for Public Land (TPL) approached Mayor Pick to encourage acquisition of the Railyard.
1987/June The City of Santa Fe passed a resolution declaring the Railyard a “blighted area,” which required the city to follow state laws while redeveloping the property.
1987-88 The City began planning the Railyard. The Metropolitan Redevelopment Commission (MRC) was created, began hearings and hired Robert Charles Lesser Co. to develop a Master Plan for the Railyard. The City did not commit to a purchase of the Railyard.
1989-90 Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company formed Catellus Development Corporation to prepare development plans for the Railyard.
1991 The Catellus Plan for the Railyard was released. The plan called for the demolition of all the rails and most existing buildings, the development of new buildings up to 6 stories tall, and a total of 1.2 million square feet of development.
1992 The Catellus Plan was rejected by the MRC and the City Council.
1992-93 A neighborhood coalition held hearings to discuss the neighborhood’s desires for the Railyard.
1994 A City of Santa Fe General Plan update reflected a major shift in policies regarding community planning and participation.
1995 The City of Santa Fe purchased the 50 acres of the Railyard with bridge financing support from the Trust for Public Land.
1996/December The City issued an open invitation to Santa Fe citizens to vote on what they wished to have on the Railyard. The number one desire was to keep the railroad running to the historic depot. The public also requested a large park, local business opportunities, and an arts and cultural district within the Railyard. They valued protection of adjacent neighborhoods and keeping the “rugged, gritty” look of the Railyard.
1997/February The City organized a four-week long design process. In week one, over 200 people worked with local architects and planners to design preliminary land use concepts for the Railyard. During week two, the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team (RUDAT) and local designers produced the Community Plan. The Santa Fe Reporter released the plan as a donation and gift, so that everyone in town could receive a copy. Ultimately, over 6,000 Santa Feans provided input on the design.
1997/Spring City Council unanimously approved the Community Plan.
1997/Fall City staff produced the Metropolitan Redevelopment Plan in order to meet State requirements.
1998 The City of Santa Fe staffed a Railyard Center office in order to implement the redevelopment of the Railyard.
2000/January The City and TPL approved a 13 acre Conservation Easement agreement which included a Park, a rail line re-alignment, and a Plaza and Alameda in the Railyard.
2001/March The City of Santa Fe selected Design Workshop Inc. to develop a more detailed Master Plan and Design Guidelines.
2001/June & September Public meetings were held to encourage full community involvement.
2001/August TPL signed an agreement with the City to manage and finance the design and development of the Park, Rail and Plaza-Alameda easements.
2002/February The Railyard Master Plan was approved by the City’s governing body. The Master Plan honored the history and cultural heritage of the site by embracing the “rugged, gritty” look of the Railyard and encouraging the presence of local businesses and non-profits. A focus was placed on arts, cultural and community organizations. The Railyard continues to celebrate these ideals with the presence of such entities as the Santa Fe Farmers Market, SITE Santa Fe, Warehouse 21 and El Museo Cultural.
2002/February The Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation (SFRCC), a New Mexico non-profit corporation, was formed from a group of citizens with diverse private and public sector expertise, and entered into a lease and management agreement with the City.
2002/July SFRCC took over the responsibility to oversee development of the 37 acres of mixed-use space for museums, galleries, restaurants, retail shops, office space, and live/work residential units for artists and craft persons, and to build much-needed infrastructure to include utilities, streets, sidewalks and landscaping.
2003/April SFRCC Board hires an Executive Director.
2003/Fall SFRCC received commitments from the city, state and and New Mexico Finance Authority to fund the infrastructure construction and project management. A $500,000 grant was also provided by the federal government to be shared 50/50 with the Trust for Public Land.
2003/Fall The engineering firm Bohannan Huston of Albuquerque was contracted to develop the plans for the new Railyard infrastructure.
2004/September Ground breaking occurred on the Railyard to mark the beginning of a number of archaeological studies which culminated 5 years later at a cost of $1.325 million.
2005 The infrastructure design was approved through a public review process
2006 The first phase of infrastructure construction commenced in the 12-acre Baca Street portion of the Railyard. This $4.6 million project was completed in 2007.
2006 Construction of the $14 million City-owned, 400-space, underground parking garage in the North Railyard commenced.
2007 The second phase of the infrastructure construction totaling $7.5 million commenced in the North Railyard.
2007 Trust for Public Land (TPL) commences construction of $13 million for the Park, Plaza and alameda and water harvesting systems.
2008 The infrastructure was completed. The grand opening event in September was attended by 20,000 people celebrating the long-awaited project. The land parcels were 92% leased.
2008-2013 The entire country plunged into a prolonged economic recession. Commercial real estate lending was impossible to obtain and development was severely impacted. Leased land parcels in the Railyard declined from 92% to 72%.
2014 Six land parcels, comprising 9% of the land area in the Baca Railyard, were leased during the recession , resulting in the construction of residential condominiums, an artist studio, an architect’s live/work office, an art storage and handling facility, and a furniture consignment store expansion.
2015 The 780-seat Violet Crown Cinema opens in the North Railyard.
2015 The last portion of the infrastructure in the North Railyard is completed when Alcaldesa Street and Camino de la Familia streets are connected.
2015 The Railyard Conservation Easement is assigned to the Santa Fe Conservation Trust by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), ending TPL’s 20-year participation in the Railyard.
2018 After nearly three years of entitlement work and one year of construction, the Railyard Flats project, a 58-unit rental apartment building in the North Railyard is completed.
2018 The Railyard Project celebrates its 10-year anniversary with a weekend of community events.
2019 Long term Railyard Tenant, Warehouse 21 Teen Center is asked by the City to leave the Railyards and concentrate its efforts on the southside of Santa Fe due to a shift in teen demographics to that part of the City.
2022 SFRCC celebrates its 20 year anniversary with a community event at SITE Santa Fe.
For recent developments on the Railyard please refer to the News & Updates.
The Railyard’s history is long, complex, and connected to the broader history of the Southwest. For more detailed historical information, including the arrival of the spur line, historical railroad structures, old lease information, and the potential significance of some sites, please see the Appendix portion of the Master Plan.