Castañeda Hotel deal a go

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Paperwork to be signed Tuesday

By Martin Salazar

Break out the champagne.

Arizona hotelier Alan Affeldt is moving forward with his plans to purchase the historic Castañeda Hotel, with the deal scheduled to close on Tuesday.

And Gov. Susana Martinez and other state officials will be in Las Vegas on April 14 for a celebration to mark the milestone and welcome the new owners, Affeldt, Tina Mion and Daniel Lutzick. MainStreet de Las Vegas sent out invitations Thursday inviting the entire community to the event.

“I think it’s going to be really significant,” said Bill Taylor, a professor of economics at Highlands University and a board member of MainStreet de Las Vegas. “The impact to the Railroad District is obvious because (the Castañeda) is such a major part of it. But I think the implications for the city and really for the region are huge as well. It gives people another reason to come to Las Vegas.”

Mayor Alfonso Ortiz Jr. calls it a momentous occasion for Las Vegas.

”You talk about tourism, that’s going to pick up tourism tremendously for the Las Vegas area,” he said.

Affeldt, the man who purchased and restored the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Ariz., has made it clear that he wants to purchase the Plaza Hotel too. Indeed, when the purchase agreement on the Castañeda was announced in February, Affeldt said he would move forward on that deal only if the purchase of the Plaza was looking favorable.

On Thursday, Affeldt told the Optic that he has met with the New Mexico Finance Authority board and the president of the bank, both of whom have an ownership interest in the Plaza, and they have agreed, in principle, that they want to sell it. The Plaza went into receivership in 2012.

“For us it’s kind of a leap of faith that everything is going to work out with the Plaza,” Affeldt said, explaining that acquiring that hotel is critical for his Castañeda plans.

“I discussed this with my wife and my crew,” he added. “We decided it was worth the risk of buying the Castañeda anyway. We love the building and the town.”

Taylor said plans for the Castañeda are in line with recommendations that Las Vegas focus on cultural tourism.
But even beyond that, he said, the plans for the Castañeda are important symbolically.

“The other thing this does for Las Vegas is it changes the mood of the town from pessimism to optimism,” Taylor said. “A lot more people are going to see the glass half full versus half empty.”

The fact that Las Vegas is also making progress on its water woes — as is evidenced by the $10 million appropriation it received to enlarge Bradner Reservoir — also gives people a reason to be optimistic, and that, too, could translate into more investments being made in the community.

Original price was $100,000
Built in 1898 as a Fred Harvey house, the Castañeda is considered the first Mission Revival building in New Mexico. It was reportedly built at a cost of $110,000.

It is currently owned by Marie Eldh, who has been trying to sell it for years.

The building hasn’t been used as a hotel for decades, although it does have an operating bar. The building has fallen into disrepair and will need a major renovation.

Affeldt said two corporations are being set up for the Castañeda purchase. Hotel Castañeda LLC. will own the building, while Castañeda Bar LLC will own the liquor license. While the sale on the building is scheduled to close on Tuesday, the sale of the liquor license will take a few more months, Affeldt said.

He said the Plaza Hotel deal is more complicated because it went into receivership. But he said the state Finance Authority and the bank have been receptive to selling it.

“They all understand I have the potential to do more with it,” he said. “We’re now having the building appraised. It should be done in two weeks.”

Affeldt said he is working with Southwest Capital Bank on that deal because he wants to do as much business locally as possible. And he said that philosophy will extend to the crew that ends up restoring the Castañeda.

Bathrooms in each room
That restoration will cost millions of dollars and will involve everything from installing a new roof and plumbing to a new electrical and a redesign. The hotel originally featured around 40 guest rooms, with guests sharing bathrooms.

Modernizing the hotel, which will include adding bathrooms in every room, will likely mean that the Castañeda ends up with 20 guest rooms.

Affeldt has said that a 20-room hotel just isn’t economically viable; he wants to purchase the Plaza Hotel to create economy of scale.

As for the restoration of the Castañeda, Affeldt concedes it won’t happen overnight. The planning and design review phase alone will likely take six months. The New Mexico Historic Preservation Division will also need to sign off on the plans since the Castañeda is a historic landmark.

Hotel to host celebration
Affeldt plans to speak to the local Rotary club about his plans on Tuesday.

The community celebration, meanwhile, will take place from noon to 2 p.m. in the lobby and dining room of the Castañeda, which is at 524 Railroad Ave.

“The entire community is invited to celebrate and welcome the new owners ... who will talk about the plans for restoration,” MainStreet de Las Vegas states in its invitations, which were emailed on Wednesday.

Besides Gov. Martinez, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela and Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson are scheduled to attend.

A number of state lawmakers have also told Ortiz that they are planning to attend.

Affeldt said he is also hoping to open the hotel for other limited public visits to give area residents a glimpse of the landmark. Already on the schedule are the state Historic Conservation Conference in May and the annual Places With a Past home tour put on by the Citizens Committee for Historic Preservation.