Railyard Park + Plaza
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Project Owner: City of Santa Fe
Designer: Ken Smith, Frederic Schwartz, Missy May

Built in 1880, Santa Fe’s railyard was a key component of the city’s identity. But with a decrease in railroad use, it became a blighted area. With the help of the Trust for Public Land, the city purchased the land and undertook a long public process of planning, design, and implementation.

The Railyard Park + Plaza, designed as a cohesive urban art environment to support local artists, is a 13-acre (5.3 ha) parcel of open space created through a conservation easement that protects its use in perpetuity. Three acres (1.2 ha) are a gritty and authentic warehouse district reminiscent of the historic railroad hub, softened by the welcoming green space of the ten-acre (4 ha) park. Old rail axles mark the historic Chili Line and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Trees are carefully placed to preserve long-distance views to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The area is pedestrian friendly and accessible to the disabled, and provides drop-off zones for the elderly and children. It is the center of a corridor connecting downtown to historic districts.

The Railyard Park + Plaza provides a variety of distinctive areas for passive, active, and educational use. A circular ramada symbolizes both the indigenous kiva religious space and a railyard turntable. The 400-year-old irrigation canal, the Acequia Madre, nourishes gardens with water runoff and includes a traditional Pueblo waffle garden that uses rainwater-conservation features appropriate for the arid climate. An informal outdoor performance space slopes gently out of a hillside. The children’s play area provides creative climbing, sliding, and water features. And 5,000 feet (1,500 m) of walking and biking trails link the site to a citywide trail network. More than 300 trees and several thousand drought-resistant plants create an oasis in Santa Fe’s high-desert environment. The Alameda is a grand pedestrian walkway connecting all activities in the north railyard, including a trail along the tracks. At the center is a water tower that holds 3,500 gallons (13,250 liters) of rainwater collected from the roofs of businesses.

The total cost for the Railyard Park + Plaza redevelopment was $137 million, including $70 million in private investment by Railyard Tenants for construction and building improvements and $67 million from a variety of public sources.