School battles historic designation for Sanbusco Center

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico charter school wants Santa Fe city council to loosen protections on a building that’s been in Santa Fe since the 19th century so that it can transform it into its future home.

The Sanbusco Market Center has been known as a shopping center in recent decades but it was first built in the 1880’s with a very different purpose.

“It was a lumber yard at the end of the rail line,” said David Rasch, supervising planner for the City of Santa Fe’s Historic Preservation Division.

Short for “Santa Fe Builders Supply Company,” Sanbusco was saved from demolition in the 1980’s by developer Joe Schepps.

“He restored it and reconstructed a lot of the brickwork,” Rasch said.

A lot of the stucco that had been added was removed in order to give the building its original look. Shops moved in and a Borders book store was added as a key tenant.

But now most of those shops have cleared out. The building was auctioned off for a reported $7.3 million in 2015 to become the future home of the New Mexico School for the Arts.

Currently Sanbusco is considered to have “contributing” status, meaning it has protections as a historic part of Santa Fe.

“Not only design standards must be followed but also preservation standards so it’s more restrictive,” Rasch said.

According to city documents, the school asked for that designation to be removed so that it could make major changes to its facade.

However, the Historic Districts Review Board not only affirmed Sanbusco’s historic status, it also gave similar protections to a structure in the parking lot currently used as a carport. While that carport is almost entirely made of new materials, it’s considered historically accurate to and reminiscent of Sanbusco’s lumber yard past.

The school is now appealing that decision to Santa Fe City Council, which is scheduled to hear that appeal Wednesday evening. According to documents filed in the case, it’s essentially arguing that the building has changed so much over the decades that it no longer has the same historic character worth preserving.

Shelley Winship, executive director of the New Mexico School for the Arts Art Institute, declined to comment on the reasons the school was asking for changes to the historic status of Sanbusco saying it’s part of the case they’ll make to city council. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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