Inside the Capitol

Saturday, June 07, 2008

6-11 Visitor Parking Added At State Capitol

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Good news for New Mexicans planning to visit our state Capitol Building . The chances of finding a parking place will improve within a year.
Ground has been broken for a block-long parking garage across the street west of the Capitol. The building is scheduled to be ready for the 2009 Legislature beginning in January. But we're talking Santa Fe, folks. Schedules are met only in fairy tales, or Alamogordo, or Hobbs, not in Santa Fe.
In fact, plan on parking being worse during the 2009 Legislature because the garage is displacing a state employee surface parking lot and those people have to park somewhere. I'll keep you posted.
The garage will be aesthetically pleasing, blending in with other buildings in the area. State government isn't required to comply with Santa Fe's tough architectural design code, but state officials are working with the city and neighborhood association to meet the spirit of the law.
The wisdom of working with the city and neighborhood was underscored by the Santa Fe county government recently when it designed a big box courthouse rising 56 feet from the sidewalk in downtown Santa Fe.
The district judges, learned in the law, knew the city couldn't impose its building codes on a separate unit of government. Cities and counties often don't get along very well so the county briefly enjoyed rubbing the city's nose in the county's autonomy.
But local reaction was such that the county wisely scaled back its plans and ended up with a very pleasing design.
Unfortunately the state may have scaled back too far on its parking garage. A previously planned third floor was removed in order to satisfy height restrictions. And a second floor below ground was scrapped because of cost.
That leaves 550 spaces. But the parking lot it displaces had 140 spaces. Add to that 250 temporary legislative employees during a session. That leaves only 160 spaces for the public. That's not many, but the thought of 160 more parking spaces around the Capitol during a legislative session still sounds like heaven.
If you come on the weekend during the session, most of those regular state employee spaces will be vacant. And if you come any other time of year, the 250 legislative employee spaces will be vacant.
One problem with a part time legislature is that facilities built to accommodate large numbers of people for one or two months a year are nearly deserted the remainder of the year.
There is other good news for tourists visiting Santa Fe. Two other public parking lots are being built in downtown Santa Fe. One is under the new convention/community center that Santa Fe has yet to name. And the other beneath the huge Railyard Project off Guadalupe Street.
The new Capitol parking garage will be oh-so-Santa Fe in so many ways. Not only will it be nice looking, it will be landscaped, use harvested water and its best parking spaces will be reserved for alternative fuel vehicles.
The Legislature actually owes the Capitol neighborhood a nice looking building. The Capitol itself is no beauty from the outside. Its round shape is unique but you only notice that from above.
When the building was finished in 1966, tall trees were planted all the way around the building to soften its look..
But step inside and you see the most beautiful state capitol in the nation. It is much like walking into one of Santa Fe's fine art galleries.
If you haven't visited your state capitol yet, plan on doing it next year when the parking is good. If you can do it during a legislative session, you will get a real treat.
Not only does New Mexico have the prettiest capitol interior, it also has some of the friendliest lawmakers. Our Legislature hasn't yet succumbed to the fear of terrorism so you have free run of the building and all its friendly people.
WED, 6-11-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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