Hotel Clovis plans give officials hope

CNJ file photo Jonathan Reed and Associates proposed a $10 million plan to turn the Hotel Clovis into housing units.

By Jean Verlich: CNJ news editor

City officials say they are watching with interest a $10 million plan by an Albuquerque developer to convert the Hotel Clovis into housing units. They’ve seen similar ideas evaporate once the numbers are run.

This time may be different, they say. The developer has a successful history building affordable housing in Clovis and has a community-initiated development strategy working with Clovis MainStreet.

“Over the years since the hotel has been secured, (we) have (had) various developers that have been interested in developing the hotel but we haven’t as of yet had anyone come forward with a proposal,” said Claire Burroughes, the city’s community relations director. “Invariably they have run the figures on revitalizing the hotel and have found that it is not profitable.”

The city took ownership of the nine-story Clovis landmark in 2004 when previous owners failed to meet tax and financial obligations.

Clovis MainStreet vice president Lisa Dunagan presented a plan to develop the hotel into residences at the June 21 Clovis City Commission meeting.

Jonathan Reed and Associates would form a limited liability corporation with Clovis MainStreet and invest $9 million. Clovis MainStreet and the city would work together to seek government grants to cover the remaining $1 million, according to Clovis MainStreet officials.

“Numerous people in the past have expressed interest but none have come forward as far as Mr. Reed has as far as trying to formulate a specific plan,” Clovis city attorney David Richards said. “But there are no agreements, there are no contracts, there are no commitments on either side at this point.”

Jonathan Reed of Jonathan Reed and Associates called the strategy “a conceptual development program” that would address the city’s “acute need for affordable housing” and downtown redevelopment.

He said the two “intersected at the hotel.”

Before the idea gets off the ground, Reed said, he must secure a “tax credit reservation” through the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority.

“It’s a very competitive process,” Reed said, estimating his chances at one in three.

He’s already begun the arduous process of preparing 600 to 700 pages that will take seven months of work.

“We’re in the predevelopment stages,” he said of the process. He listed the steps as including land acquisition, toxics studies, structural analysis, architectural and engineering work, contact with the state historical society and negotiations with the city among others.

Because the Hotel Clovis is “a community treasure,” Reed said, he felt it was important to have a local organization own the building.

His vision is for floors two to eight to be affordable low-income or market-rate housing — or most likely a combination, Reed said. About one-third of the units would have one bedroom and the balance two bedrooms.

He wants to leave the ground floor as it was in the 1930s, he said, as retail. Plans for the ninth floor have not yet been determined.

“It takes time and research and money and lots of factors to develop something of that nature,” Richards explained. “(Reed’s) looked at the building and he’s made preliminary assessments of condition and so forth so he’s in the evaluation process and he’s putting together a plan for the use that he wants to utilize the building and for how to make that happen financially.”

In the meantime, Burroughes and the city’s grants coordinator, Sandy Chancey, are looking into federal and state grants for remediation.

Burroughes said the state Environment Department estimated remediation two years ago would cost half a million dollars. She said the cost today could be up to $800,000.

The nine-story hotel was built in 1931 at a cost of $300,000, according to documents filed with the National Register of Historic Places.

“It may enhance the development ability of the hotel to try to remediate some of the hazardous materials,” Richards said.

Burroughes said funding applications need to be submitted by September for May eligibility.

Reed said if he receives the funding and doesn’t uncover any substantial structural deficiencies in the hotel, and if all of the other pieces fall into place, the first residents could move in the Hotel Clovis by the summer of 2009.

“It should be a very nice place to live when we are done,” he said.

A brief history on the hotel:

Hotel Clovis opened its doors on Oct. 20, 1931, as the tallest building between Albuquerque and Dallas,
according to the Web site for the National Trust. Louis Armstrong, Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Hank Williams performed in the ballroom, the Web site reads.

It was sold in 1965, 1976 and 1979 to out-of-state investors and lost its contract in 1981 with the Santa Fe Railroad for employee lodging when it no longer met fire codes, according to National Register of Historic Places documents.

Charles and Florence Jones leased the hotel in 1983 with plans to restore it but Florence Jones’ death halted the plans, the National Register
documents read.

The private Hispano Business Council bought the
property in 1995, according to the National Trust Web site.

The city took ownership in November 2004.

— Compiled by CNJ news editor Jean Verlich