Noted as a grand venture for Taos upon its building more than 25 years ago, the Hotel Don Fernando de Taos may yet again see some of its former glory as renovations to the foreclosed hotel continue to make …
Noted as a grand venture for Taos upon its building more than 25 years ago, the Hotel Don Fernando de Taos may yet again see some of its former glory as renovations to the foreclosed hotel continue to make way.
Built in 1989 as the new luxury hotel for Taos, the Don Fernando had a short-lived initial stream of business, as the boom of the hotel faded just shy of two years later. The 126-room hotel room was opened by Carter Sales and Rick Hamilton with a grand extravagant entrance to Taos with buffets of crab, shrimp and Champagne. Featuring amenities to guests - such as tennis courts, pool and a unique multibuilding-style facade - the Don Fernando was like few other hotels during its prime.
Garrett Limited Partnerships acquired the hotel in 1993 and things were looking up, but only for a brief moment. The hotel eventually hit another downfall, as owners were behind on several payments and taxes. For more than a year, when it closed in January of 2016, the once great and luxurious Taos hotel sat under foreclosure and fell victim to decay and abandonment. Broken windows and graffiti were common in the hotel's campus and it quickly became an area of town forgotten to neglect.
Prior to the Don Fernando's recent closure, the hotel owners were handed a letter from the town of Taos fire marshal's office with 106 code violations still to be fixed. Three inspections of the hotel revealed there were code issues ranging from small to major that had to be fixed before the building could pass inspection. According to a Sept. 10, 2015, fire marshal's report of the hotel, violations included (but were not limited to) smoke detector repairs, walls and ceilings needing repairs and loose electrical outlets. Hotel developer Jay Batra's contractors have been working to fix many of the code issues and bring the building up to an operating level. Nearly a year ago, Batra began his process of acquiring the building and renovating the property to bring more of a luxury aspect to the Taos area.
"If I'm not going to do it, who else will?" said Batra in a recent interview with The Taos News.
Batra and his crew have been completely renovating the rooms of the hotel, replacing mattresses, fixtures and even adding new wallpaper for an added touch. Construction workers have been replacing broken windows, bringing the building back up to code and repainting the rooms. New stairwells are being worked on while new heated appliances are being installed in the rooms.
The renovations will cost an estimated $3 million. Batra said he and his team are dedicated to making this the premier hotel in Taos once again. While there is much work to do, Batra said the project is going along well and hopes to have the hotel open by the end of the year.
"I see a lot of character and a lot of potential," said Batra. "We're going about it sort of the right way - not just fixing things cosmetically, but more so from the infrastructure point of view."
As a developer for nearly 12 years, Batra has been restoring hotel properties across the U.S. in six states and has been doing business in Taos for some time. Batra currently owns the Hampton Inn in Taos and is looking at possibly building a four-story Holiday Inn Express in the same area of town on Paseo del Pueblo Sur. Recently, the Taos Town Council voted to postpone the vote - per Batra's recommendation - so he could explore different building aesthetics to try and accommodate the needs and requests of citizens of the town.
Batra said the initial job count would be around 52 positions once the hotel opens, but that it was still early in the development and renovations. When asked about a $500,000 state grant Batra was given for the renovations for the hotel, he said he has yet to touch that money and that the current costs have been largely out of pocket.
"Our intent is to make this prime once more, and there is no reason why it can't be," Batra said. "Let's make it where it belongs - that is 21st century - but yet, let's not lose the character of it. Lets keep the identity."
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