Owners marketing closed SF Indian school


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A historic but shuttered Indian school overlooking northern Santa Fe is being marketed as a possible senior living facility.

The century-old St. Catherine Indian School campus has been on the market at $4 million for about two weeks. Listing agent Jack Dettweiler says he has fielded serious inquiries.

The property is in foreclosure, but Dettweiler told the Santa Fe New Mexican ( that the bank's attorney gave him permission to try to sell the land.

Potential buyers are being told to forget about trying for retail, industrial or office uses because of neighborhood opposition and traffic limits, Dettweiler said. Instead, he's focusing on developers who specialize in senior housing.

The buildings need millions in renovations. In 2010, experts estimated it would cost up to $20 million to restore the oldest, most historically significant building there, a three-story adobe structure. The 18-acre property was formerly listed for sale at $8 million.

The site also has historic-property designations from the state and city that prevent destruction of significant buildings.

The site has been shuttered since the last class graduated from the private school in 1998 and its future has been uncertain. A construction company whose principals include cemetery developer Max Tafoya of Albuquerque bought the land about six years ago hoping its former athletic fields could be sold to the National Cemetery Administration for expansion of the adjacent Santa Fe National Cemetery. But it has become clear in recent years that federal officials won't move to acquire any part of the land.

Officials with the city of Santa Fe and the New Mexico School for the Arts talked this year about trying to buy the campus, but those plans also have slipped away.

In the meantime, Tafoya and his company became embroiled in a number of court battles. State and federal court records show pending cases over the property in addition to the foreclosure effort. An attorney who worked with the property owners alleges he wasn't paid, a former real-estate broker says the company breached a contract with her, and the city has filed an injunction alleging the property owners are allowing "demolition by neglect" in violation of city rules.

On top of that, a federal grand jury indicted Tafoya on charges that he made false statements to get government contracts. A trial in that case is scheduled to begin April 8 in Albuquerque.

John Polk, an attorney who represents New Mexico Consolidated and is an investor in the company, said the foreclosing bank doesn't even seem interested in taking over the former campus. "Everybody is just trying to get the property sold and get out from under it," he said.

Polk argues city officials and preservation advocates have made it impossible for the campus to have a future other than crumbling to its foundations.

"The highest and best use would be to flatten it and convert it to some sort of residential use," he said. "The solution to this problem is money, and nobody is going to come up with that money without a really major change."

Tim Maxwell, former president of the Old Santa Fe Association, told the New Mexican Friday that the preservation group "would just love to see (the property) back in use," even though the organization has opposed some land-use proposals from the owner.


Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican,

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