UNM-LA Opts For Student Housing Feasibility Study

Interim UNM Real Estate Director Tom Neal, left, discusses student housing issues at Thursday’s meeting in Building 2 on the college campus. Seated behind Neal are Los Alamos attorney George Chandler and his wife Probate Judge Chris Chandler who live across the street from the Student Housing. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

UNM-LA Advisory Board member Michelle Hall, right, speaks to Interim UNM Real Estate Director Tom Neal, left, at Thursday’s meeting on the college campus. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com


Los Alamos Daily Post

The UNM-Los Alamos Advisory Board met Thursday evening to discuss a path forward for the aging Student Housing buildings on 9th Street near downtown Los Alamos.

After much discussion, the Advisory Board voted to have UNM do a feasibility study to put a value on the two buildings and determine whether renovating them would be cost effective, and at the same time explore what a “ground lease plus” option would look like.

“I’m not guaranteeing that it’s feasible – but we’ll try real hard to come up with something that is doable,” said Interim UNM Real Estate Director Tom Neal, representing the UNM Board of Regents, which own the property. “We’ll do it all in house – you won’t get a bill for it.”

The board placed the option to tear down the aging structures in abeyance pending the outcome of the feasibility study, which is scheduled for completion within 30 days.

The college also has submitted a grant proposal to tear down the buildings that includes a request for the County to serve as project manager, UNM-LA Business Director Lisa Wismer said. No action will be taken on that proposal until the findings of the feasibility study are reviewed, she said.  

Like other buildings and homes in Los Alamos built decades ago, the Student Housing buildings are reaching the end of their useful lifespan. Wismer expressed concern with the condition of the structures but clarified her comments following the meeting.

“What I mean is that I’m uncomfortable as a parent … the boilers were installed in 1985 and the plumbing and electrical are at the end of their life as well …,” she said. 

UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page added that the previous proposal to construct new buildings had a useful lifespan of 15 years and the Student Housing buildings are more than twice that age. As it stands, one of the two buildings is closed and the other is essentially full for the summer, Advisory Board President Steve Boerigter said. The board voted that the building will not be open this fall.

Wismer told the Los Alamos Daily Post today that an assessment was requested this morning through UNM’s Safety and Risk Services Division to determine the condition of the occupied building.

The latest appraisal is $565,000 for the 1.88 acres of land on which the two Student Housing buildings sit.

“I think that’s low … but everything about Los Alamos is difficult … there are very few land sales here, the last land sale was probably seven or eight years ago,” Neal said.

Earlier in the day, Neal met with a group of neighbors living near the Student Housing buildings including George Chandler, a local attorney and his wife Los Alamos County Probate Judge Chris Chandler.

“I didn’t pay enough attention to the neighborhood concerns before,” Neal said. “This is a good time to reset and take a fresh look at this.”


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