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A quick look at Santa Fe

Courtesy The Railyard

Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau

201 W. Marcy St.
Santa Fe, NM 87501

What’s new: For more than two years, Drury Hotels has been working with Santa Fe officials on approvals for plans to turn the old St. Vincent Hospital into a hotel. Drury still plans to go forward with the project, but no date is set for opening. American Airlines is the only commercial airline offering service into Santa Fe now, but other airlines are interested, and American reportedly is considering adding another flight to and from Dallas.

Kudos: Conde Nast Traveler magazine ranked Santa Fe No. 3 in its 2009 readers poll of the most popular U.S. travel destinations.

Rooms: There are 1,500 hotel rooms in the historic downtown; in the outlying Cerrillos Road area, there are more than 4,500 hotel rooms.

Location: Santa Fe is in the high desert (elevation 7,000 feet) of northern New Mexico, one hour north of Albuquerque. It is five and a half hours south of Denver and four and a half hours north of El Paso, Texas.

Getting there: Most travelers fly into Albuquerque International Sunport. From there, they rent a car or take a shuttle bus to Santa Fe. The Rail Runner light rail is not popular with meeting attendees because access is not convenient from the airport. American Eagle has three flights daily from Dallas/Fort Worth (one is seasonal) and one flight per day from Los Angeles to the Santa Fe Municipal Airport. Santa Fe has bus and taxi service.

Railyard becomes more than a whistlestop
In a little more than a century, Santa Fe’s Railyard has gone from boom to bust and back again.

Trains have returned, although in a different form than when they arrived in 1880 and helped turn Santa Fe into a tourist destination. Today’s Railyard is the end of the line for the Rail Runner, a light-rail system that operates between Santa Fe and south Albuquerque.

Commerce has also made a comeback to the Railyard, an area that was a few years ago “a derelict abandoned rail yard with a few standing old warehouses and a handful of historic buildings, a lot of which had fallen into disuse,” said Sandra Brice, director of events and marketing for the Santa Fe Railyard Community Corp.

Today, this district eight blocks from the better-known historic Plaza bustles, especially on weekends. The railroad tracks, the old depot and surrounding land, 13 acres in all, have been given multiple purposes. Ten acres are parklands, with walking paths, picnic areas and community gardens watered by a system that collects rainwater from rooftops.

Old warehouses have been revived, and new structures have been built to mimic them. Local nonprofits have made the Railyard their home; among them are Warehouse 21, a youth arts program; the internationally known arts organization SITE Santa Fe; and the Hispanic cultural center El Museo Cultural.

The Railyard is also home base for a thriving farmers market, which makes it home year round in a 10,000-square-foot hall and spills out into the plaza in the summertime.

Restaurants and retail are filling vacant storefronts; they include 11 art galleries that host a final-Friday art walk each month.

Although it is a gathering place, the Railyard differs from the Plaza in its appearance and its audience.  “We have a very specific master plan that prohibits the use of faux adobe, and instead encourages the building of metal or a more contemporary look,” said Brice.

The district offers a number of options for meeting planners. Already proving popular is the farmers market’s quarters, which can be used for dinners and receptions, including those that feature the local produce sold there. Warehouse 21 has several spaces available for groups, such as a downtown concert hall.  More development is planned for the Railyard. A multiscreen movie theater will be built when the economy recovers, and when that project is complete, Brice expects that more businesses will follow.


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