University of New Mexico-Taos recently received approval from the UNM Board of Regents, the Taos mayor and Town Council on a lease and purchase agreement for Rio Grande and Bataan Halls, which once comprised the Taos Convention Center, where UNM-Taos has rented space for the past 20 years. The agreement was endorsed by UNM President Robert Frank and the UNM-Taos Advisory Board.

Under the lease and purchase agreement, UNM-Taos pays $1 a year to lease the buildings, but is responsible for upkeep and maintenance. The five-year agreement includes a $1 purchase option, which will require additional approvals from the New Mexico Higher Education Department and the New Mexico State Board of Finance.

“We have begun pursuing these approvals, but realistically, they can be expected to take some time,” said Executive Director of UNM-Taos, Kate O’Neill. “We expect that instruction, training and other educational activities will commence in these spaces beginning in January. I have already set up a committee tasked with coordinating the rollout.”

Rio Grande Hall will be primarily for Health Sciences, Allied Health and Integrative Health Programs, while Bataan Hall will likely concentrate on media, IT and workforce opportunities. The plan is eventually to move programs out of rented space at the Med Center and into these owned spaces, focusing on repurposing and upgrading Rio Grande Hall.

O’Neill said that the chance to add 26,000 square feet of additional downtown campus space was a rare opportunity. “UNM-Taos had 11 different locations throughout the community at one point, a layout that made it hard for students and staff to get from class to class. Expanding a presence downtown is part of an effort to consolidate the college into two campuses — the Klauer Campus south of Ranchos de Taos and the forthcoming expansion onto Civic Plaza Drive,” she said.

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