Final phase of construction coming for Tierra Contenta

April 8, 2019

In the more than 23 years since the first home was finished in Tierra Contenta, approximately 2,500 houses and apartments have been built in the southwest-side subdivision. The first two phases are just about complete, but a new construction phase is coming.

Another 375 acres will be developed south and southwest of Capital High School. Most of the homes will be separated from the rest of Tierra Contenta by a major arroyo, so the Phase Three project will almost seem like a separate neighborhood.

And by the time it’s finished, it will be a large neighborhood: The city-approved master plan allows another 1,800 housing units there.

Residents of Tierra Contenta and other members of the public will get their chance to weigh in on the final phase of the subdivision during a meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center.

“Times have changed and lessons have been learned since the current Tierra Contenta master plan was approved 25 years ago,” Peter Werwath, project manager for Phase Three planning, said in a news release. “Obviously some features of Phases 1 and 2 worked better than others.”

Tierra Contenta saw its first home completed in November 1995, after the city purchased the 850-acre site from the Bellamah Corp. More than 50 percent of the housing in Tierra Contenta meets affordability criteria.

The Santa Fe Public Library’s Southside Branch, which opened in 2007, was immediately a popular addition to the neighborhood, but Plaza Contenta, the small commercial center at Jaguar Drive and Avenida Contenta, has never flourished. The idea of building additional commercial buildings in Phase Three has accordingly been modified.

“The original plan for Tierra Contenta was that there would be centers that included commercial, but that was before Airport Road was developed and before Walmart was there,” said James Hicks, who has been on staff at the Tierra Contenta Corp. for more than 20 years and is now its only staffer.

“Phase Three is more than likely going to be all residential, with multifamily uses out toward the edges of the property, so people will be closer to public transportation and shopping,” said Hicks, sitting in his office at The Housing Trust.

The main road in the new phase will be the central piece of what will then be known as the Paseo del Sol Loop. The engineering for the more than $7 million street section is complete, but construction funds must be raised, probably through a bond issue.

When it’s completed, it will be time to build houses and fill out the road network. “We are working on Phase Three and there are builders who want to buy from us,” Hicks said. “The apartments will probably come first and help fund all the smaller streets.”

Chances are that Phase Three construction will begin not long after another large project is completed less than two miles away. In early February, the production builder Pulte Homes had finished 195 houses at the Vistas de Las Soleras and Sierra de Las Soleras subdivisions. The buildout figure for the Pulte projects on a 550-acre site northeast of the Interstate 25 and Cerrillos Road interchange is 302 homes.

On the western edge of Tierra Contenta, two large commercial projects are planned on either side of the new interchange of Jaguar Drive and N.M. 599. Another part of the puzzle in this part of town is the city’s desire to continue the extension of Jaguar Drive to the Santa Fe Regional Airport. City Hall may have help from Kate Fishman, who owns 420 acres of land near the new interchange.

“If and when we develop a business park there, we will assist with the cost of development of that roadway,” she said.

Fishman, the president and CEO of Española Mercantile Co., plans a Santa Fe Commercial Center on the airport side of the interchange. On its east side, she is working on the Village Plaza at Tierra Contenta. The infrastructure for that project is completed and there are parcels on the market.

“We have sold one lot, and it’s my understanding that the developer wants to put in a gas station and car wash. He’s now looking for an operator to help develop it,” she said.

“The remainder will be mixed use. We had approved an office in the northern part of the subdivision, but office is not very in demand right now. There is a need for multifamily, so we’re working with some developers on that.

“We’ve tried to bring in more retail, like a grocery store, to serve the needs of Tierra Contenta residents, but so far the retailers have been a little reluctant to go on that side; they’re more interested in the Las Soleras side right now.”

The first construction crews at Village Plaza will build a corporate office for two Santa Fe-based companies of Española Mercantile Co.: Associated Asphalt & Materials and EMCO of Santa Fe, which does earthwork, demolition, paving and other construction services.

There has not been much progress on the Santa Fe Commercial Center. The city-approved site plan includes a hotel, but the idea is for a business park. However, again, Fishman sees more interest in the Cerrillos Road side than on the N.M. 599 side of Tierra Contenta.

That’s because the new interchange is still empty; it’s not a hub yet.

“It isn’t,” Fishman agreed. “We’re waiting for that to take place, to get that side of town to be more of a destination, rather than just a way to bypass the city.”