Hotel proposal raises hopes

Steve DeLeon is getting set for his 10th anniversary of owning his Sports Angle shop on Main Street. He’s hopeful that Thursday night was a great anniversary present.

Count DeLeon among those excited about the possibility of the Hotel Clovis, a few blocks south of DeLeon’s sports collectible business, being converted into an apartment complex.

“My first thought was, ‘Man that is great,’” said DeLeon, no doubt hopeful extra Main Street traffic would ensue. “It should help the businesses on the block, not just me.”

The Clovis City Commission on Thursday approved the proposal of Taos-based Tierra Realty to renovate the hotel, which was first built in 1931, but has reached both landmark and albatross status since its 1983 closure.

The city has owned the hotel since 2004, and could be moving it on with a $13 million renovation. City Purchasing Agent David Boswell said the city’s maximum investment under the proposal would be $500,000.

“I think it’s a very enthusiastic project,” said Boswell. “It, to me, has the most promise of any proposal put forth since I’ve lived here.”

Though many details are up in the air, Boswell said, the target is to have floors 3-9 housing 40 apartments, with the first two floors available for business development. He thinks with things going right, residents could live in the building as early as 2012.

The key to landing the proposal, he believes, is the asbestos abatement currently taking place thanks to a series of grants. The abatement, scheduled to be done by the end of May, wasn’t something developers wanted to take on.

“We had a lot of contractors over the years that looked at it,” Boswell said, “but the big deal was it was going to cost $300,000-500,000 to clean it up.”

A complete proposal should be presented to the city commission by the end of July, Boswell said, but a quick abatement process could speed up that timetable.

As far as whether the building would be for senior living or more general apartments, Boswell said that decision would be left to Tierra, which is already building a senior living facility on Mitchell and 14th Street.

“They have a very strong economic base,” Boswell said. “They’re a pretty solid company and they’re involved in projects already. They’ve been recommended by several agencies across the state.”

When contacted, Stephen Crozier of Tierra said it is company policy to decline media interview requests.

DeLeon said his shop, which sells sports and gaming cards, collectible plaques and countless other sports items, would benefit more from younger renters. But even senior residents would have children or grandchildren who may stop by while visiting relatives.

He’s hoping the extra traffic from 40 apartments would tempt investors to sell more merchandise on Main Street.

“They’ll buy these buildings to use as warehouses,” he said, “and they should be (businesses) for window shoppers.”

And that’s pretty much the idea, Boswell said. A documentary Boswell saw this week, for instance, covered how Arlington, Va., put apartments in its industrial area.

“We want to revitalize downtown,” Boswell said. “If you put a little residential right in the middle of downtown, the people in those apartments are more likely to use those businesses.”

For instance, Boswell said, without stating a preference for either restaurant, he’d much rather walk a few blocks to Eddie’s Subs, located on Main Street a few hundred steps from Hotel Clovis, than drive to a comparable restaurant like Subway or Quiznos.

Boswell said the city might have ownership of the hotel for years, based on a lease-purchase agreement with Tierra. Similar contracts have gone decades before the developer eventually takes total ownership.

Whatever happens, the city is confident it won’t have to worry about its deadline of 2012 to tear the building down if it’s not in development.

That ending, DeLeon said, would not be his preference.

“I think it would be a shame to see it torn down,” he said. “It would just be an empty spot.”