It’s taken a quarter of a century, but Santa Fe’s Railyard finally seems to be reaching the potential many envisioned when city government spent millions to purchase the property in 1995.
Empty spaces in the centerpiece Market Station building – where REI is the anchor tenant – are filling up under new ownership that took over just last year.
Open now or opening soon under local firm Luna Capital Advisors are a Bosque Brewing tap room, La Lecheria craft ice cream, Wayward Sons Distillery and the tea-centric Opuntia Café, which is moving north from the southern segment of the Railyard property off of Baca Street.
Luna Capital, Build De Sign design studio and the biotech firm Specifica also are establishing offices in the Market Station building.
The new businesses will join REI, Daniella women’s boutique and Puzzah! escape room, filling up the building for the first time since it opened in 2008.
Market Station’s original owners struggled and went bankrupt amid problems that started with the fact that the building opened for business precisely when the Great Recession hit.
Across the tracks from Market Station, construction is underway for Nuckolls Brewing Co., whose ownership is connected to the existing Violet Crown Cinema. The movie theater’s opening in 2015 was a crucial step toward energizing the Railyard after a previous cinema developer couldn’t make progress for years.
The new businesses will add to Railyard regulars like the bustling Farmers Market, Second Street Brewing, Site Santa Fe and El Museo Cultural. The Railyard Flats apartments which opened a couple of years ago have provided a real residential element after a first, ill-conceived effort – just a few very impressive but very expensive condo units – were installed in the first phase of Railyard development.
It is striking that a lot of the Railyard’s new buzz is built on booze – when the work now underway is complete, there will be six drinking establishments packed into a small area, with the full-blown pub inside the Violet Crown and The Boxcar included. Here is a place for a pub crawl where imbibers literally could crawl from stop to stop.
“It creates a nice focal point where people can walk from one place to another,” said Luna Capital’s Kris Axtell.
It’s legitimate to question whether a city-owned development should put such an emphasis on alcohol establishments. In the interest of public safety, let’s hope Uber and Lyft get a boost from this brewpub massing. And it would in fact be nice to have more choices with a dining menu and not beer or ice cream as the promoted attraction.
But the Railyard was always envisioned as a new city center for locals in a Santa Fe that turned the Plaza area over to tourist businesses decades ago. And brewpubs are the commercial gathering spots of today’s America, if you don’t count malls. They certainly can be family friendly. Nuckolls Brewing will have playgrounds for kids and dogs.
“I think this is the future of Santa Fe – for the local people,” said Opuntia Café’s Todd Spitzer. “The Plaza has become a place for tourists, but the Railyard is for locals. All paths lead to the Railyard. It’s the heart of the community, and that’s what we want.”
Parking – already a problem on pre-COVID-19 summer weekends at the Railyard when crowds came for the movies and free concerts beneath the iconic water tower – certainly will be a bigger issue with more businesses around. The city needs to start working on this issue now to prevent even more parking spillover into adjacent neighborhoods.
Others may note that there is not a new business that clearly promotes or reflects Santa Fe’s historical local culture. That will be left to the impressive programming at El Museo Cultural and to the venerable Tomasita’s and La Choza restaurants, outside but adjacent to the Railyard and sandwiching it from the north and south.
But credit should be given to the managers within the nonprofit Santa Fe Railyard Community Corp. for keeping the development local (even back when those of us tired of looking at empty spaces argued for allowing the likes of Chipotle to move in).
So congratulations and wishes of good luck are in order for the developers of the Railyard, Market Station owners and the new businesses that are moving in. Whenever the coronavirus allows, we all need to check out what should be a great place to hang out.