Built in 1931, Hotel Clovis has been unoccupied for 22 years. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)
By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
Hotel Clovis still towers above the city, but after 22 years of dormancy and neglect, the nationally recognized historic site still has no tenant.
The state recently pledged funds to assess the level of contaminants in the building, a first step toward determining what it will cost to clean up.
“The state administration is very much into economic development … and we are very pleased they are showing a keen interest in assisting in the redevelopment of the downtown area,” said Claire Burroughes, community relations director with the city, “and the Hotel Clovis, as the flagship for the downtown area, is a vital key into the redevelopment of the downtown area as a whole.”
The governor’s office announced $5,000 will be routed to the city from the New Mexico Environment Department for a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment at the hotel. Knowing the amount of contaminants at the site will help interested buyers with their redevelopment decisions, a press release from the governor’s office said.
According to Burroughes, it is not entirely known how much asbestos and lead-based paint is in the building, and the state-sponsored study will help determine that. The cost of remediation often plays a vital role in the contract negotiations between buyer and seller, contractors say.
The city took control of the historic structure in November in an effort to find a developer who could come in and refurbish the 74-year-old building.
“In recent months there has been some inquiries regarding the hotel,” Burroughes said, “but no signed commitment for development of the hotel.”
Gail Goff, owner of Lovington-based GWC Construction Inc., said her company has done extensive work on asbestos abatement at Cannon Air Force Base. She said the cost of removing asbestos sometimes approaches the total value of the property, a prohibitive factor in redevelopment.
Goff estimated removing asbestos from the 60,000-square-foot Hotel Clovis could approach $150,000 — with the stipulations that the building has an old boiler system and asbestos floor coverings. However, she said that cost could go up if the building has significant lead-paint contamination that needs to be removed.
“If they start trying to abate the lead, it’s just going to go plumb off the wall for expense,” Goff said.
The hotel was finished in 1931 at a cost of $300,000. In the following years, Hotel Clovis was the cultural and social center of Clovis, playing host to nationally known entertainers including Louis Armstrong, Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Hank Williams, a press release from the governor said.
Clovis MainStreet manager Julie Charters wants the hotel to fill that role again.
“Really I think the hotel Clovis is key to downtown revitalization, and I don’t think the community will consider the downtown revitalized until something good happens with it,” Charters said.
Charters said she agreed with the city’s taking over the property last year, adding that “controlling your real-estate helps control your destiny.”
In her present role, she said she is working to redevelop much of the downtown area and the railroad district, among other projects.
The uncertain future of Cannon Air Force Base makes economic development opportunities for Clovis even more important, Gov. Bill Richardson said in a press release. The air base was proposed for closure during this year’s Base Realignment and Closure round, which community leaders say will debilitate the local economy.
“This funding will help new economic life spring from this neglected site,” Richardson said.