Santa Fe New Mexican
May 24, 2021
By Teya Vitu
Flash forward 20 years, and the area south of Interstate 25 could be solid neighborhoods integrated with open space, fulfilling the ambitions of the Santa Fe Community College District Plan crafted in 2000 by Santa Fe County.
Today, the district’s primary housing areas are Rancho Viejo just south of the college and the Valle Lindo subdivision just east of N.M. 14. Open land sits between these two developments. Soon after the district plan’s launch, housing was penciled in for this acreage, but the project crashed with the 2008 recession.
Price Land Development in Albuquerque now intends to build some 800 homes near N.M. 14, N.M. 599 and Interstate 25. The company staged a pre-application neighborhood Zoom meeting Thursday for its proposed 580-home Esencia development. The project’s conceptual plan will be submitted June 11 to Santa Fe County, Price Land Development President Garret Price said.
The 277-acre Esencia property stretches from the eastern boundary of Valle Lindo to Rancho Viejo’s Avenida del Sur and A Van Nu Po. The same property was proposed for the unbuilt 520-home Sonterra project in the 2000s.
Santa Fe County intends to extend and pave Avenida del Sur into Esencia to join with an extension and paving of Vista del Monte from Valle Lindo. These will be two of the three access points into Esencia, with a third street tying into A Van Nu Po. “It is somewhat connect the dots,” Price said. “The growth in Santa Fe is happening to be moving south, whether in the county or city itself. Over the next decade, I see new schools, more commercial moving to the south.”
Price late last year started earthwork on the nearby 232-home Colibri development on 101 acres across N.M. 14 from Santa Fe Brewing Co. Construction on the first 116 homes should start by fall, with those homes completed by early 2023, followed by construction of the second set of 116 homes.
Esencia and Colibri are within the Community College District, a 17,100-acre area created in 2000 and designated for compact village development, with half the land preserved as open space. The district runs along the south side of Interstate 25, stretching from N.M. 14 to Interstate 25 on the undeveloped land between Seton Village and Eldorado.
“These developments are located within the Community College District, which is our main growth area in Santa Fe County,” county spokeswoman Carmelina Hart wrote in an email. “The allowed densities in this area are higher than other areas of the county as there is water and sewer service and other infrastructure in place. This is why we see larger subdivisions (in terms of number of lots/dwelling units) in this area.”
Price closed on the purchase of the Colibri land in 2019 and the Esencia acreage in August 2020. The rest of 2021 will be filled with securing county approvals for Esencia, with infrastructure work pending for summer 2022 and expected home construction starting in summer 2023 on the first phase of 182 homes. Four more phases would follow with 126 homes, 89 homes, 93 homes and 90 homes. The first Esencia homes could be finished by the end of 2023, with the full build-out of all 580 homes targeted for 2029-30, Price said. Price does not have potential home pricing worked out yet for Esencia, but he expects the Colibri homes to be in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. Esencia will include 87 homes meeting affordable-housing pricing guidelines to meet the county’s 15 percent minimum affordable housing in developments. The Esencia lots will be 55 and 65 feet wide and 120 feet deep. Price believes the homes will be larger than 1,500 square feet. The project is still in the conceptual stage, with specifics to be addressed at a later date. Esencia will be age restricted to 55 years or older.
“It became abundantly clear that New Mexico’s culture and climate is tops in the country,” he said. “It is the essence of New Mexico and Santa Fe. It just lends itself for the 55-plus. We are targeting the 55-plus and the recent appeal that COVID has brought to New Mexico. I think we are poised for success.”
Price embraces the College District Plan and its requirement for 50 percent open space. He plans 4.5 miles of trails on his 140 acres of open space that he wants to tie into the county regional trail network. “This is one of the more thoughtful plans I’ve seen,” Price said. “It’s rather specific. It gives a developer a sense of what the goals are. It’s a thoughtful planning document that appeals to me as a developer. I see the benefits of open space. Trails is the new No. 1 amenity preferred by all demographics. A decade or two ago, golf courses were in vogue. Now it’s trails.”
Even though he’s based in Albuquerque, Price is a 20-year veteran of Santa Fe south-side development.
He assembled the Las Soleras project, which has more than 300 homes so far on the other side of I-25, east of Cerrillos Road, as senior vice president at Pulte Homes in charge of development at Las Soleras. Before that, he was land-development manager for Centex Homes, which helped develop the initial phases of Tierra Contenta. “I have had a knack for being in front of the curve looking for where the growth is,” Price said.