Developers of the dormant Alvord Primary School site have increased their plans to build accommodation there, much to the dismay of some members of the neighborhood.
The developers are requesting changes to the site’s master plan which, if approved by the city’s Planning Commission, will divide the two lots bordering Paseo de Peralta and Alarid Street into a 10-lot subdivision. The developers are also looking to raise building height limits up to four stories on part of the site.
Some neighborhood residents have raised concerns about the project, arguing that the new plans don’t fit the long-standing neighborhood.
“It doesn’t actually make sense,” longtime neighborhood resident Rey Montez said Tuesday. “I’m just disappointed that David [Barker] took this approach.
But Barker, of Barker Realty, the property’s owner, said the project is still ongoing and is keeping lines of communication open with affected residents to make the proposal work.
He noted that concerns about building heights, traffic and parking raised at an initial ward notification meeting last week are being considered.
“Our conversation and discussions are ongoing,” he said. “We went back to the drawing board and tried to come up with different ideas in response to concerns and issues that we heard.
“I have nothing to hide,” he added. “I want to work with the neighborhood. I hope to come up with a plan that better addresses their concerns, but I can’t do everything.
Barker purchased the 2.85-acre property in 2017 from Santa Fe Public Schools for $2.55 million after Alvord Elementary School closed in 2010 due to low enrollment.
Barker said he never had a specific proposal for the site, but had previously expressed interest in converting the campus into a live workspace for artists with a commercial component.
However, in April 2021, Barker said the team was going back to the drawing board to work on new designs.
“I started to lose faith in the project,” he said. “It wasn’t comfortable and I didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do.”
Now developers are evaluating a plan to sell the homes built on the 10 lots. The subdivision would be on the western portion of the property and the homes would be a mix of one- and two-story homes, according to plans in the First Neighborhood Notification Application.
Depending on demand, the project will be less dense than what could have been developed on site, which will hopefully alleviate any traffic or congestion issues.
Barker said that to make up for lost density in the new proposal, he is asking for a height limit change to allow buildings up to 48 feet tall on the site’s play area. The site is currently zoned for buildings up to 36 feet, with the majority being zoned at 28 feet.
The playing field is on the east side of the site, adjoining the rail yard buildings, and is zoned for buildings up to three stories, or 36 feet. Railyard Flats, adjacent to the Alvord Elementary site, has three floors.
Still, Montez said he thinks the proposal “goes beyond what’s reasonable.”
Barker said based on the concerns expressed at the notification meeting, he is also evaluating the height limit request.
“I have to rethink that,” he said. “I rethink that.”
The city’s planning commission is expected to hear the point in April before it goes to city council.
Paul Reed, who lives in a unit directly opposite Alvord, said while he hasn’t been following the development very closely, anything that adds extra car traffic to the street is a concern.
“I’m not sure this street can handle that,” he said.
In their first neighborhood notification questionnaire, the developers noted that the site addresses the lack of new residential construction in the city center.
The development will also help “stem the tide of negative impact from homeless people and vagrants that has weighed on the Railyard” and surrounding neighborhoods, according to the app.
Victor R. Hernandez, also a nearby resident, said he was in favor of the development or anything that would provide the town with additional housing.
“My daughter was looking for a place, and it was difficult,” he said. “So if it helps, yes, I’m for it.”
Neighborhood resident Ann Allen was strolling near the school on Tuesday and said any momentum is better than none for the inactive site.
“I’m glad to know that they will do something with the property rather than leaving it empty,” she said.