Landmarks languish in limbo

Freedom New Mexico: Liliana Castillo Clovis MainStreet helped secure two grants to clean up the Hotel Clovis earlier this year.

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

The excitement is almost tangible when some locals talk about rebuilding the oldest, grandest hotels in Clovis and Portales.

But if hope puts gleam in the eyes, reality often provides the floaters.

Still, those with the dream press on.

“I’m not concerned,” said Robyne Beaubien, executive director of Clovis MainStreet, when asked about a delay transferring ownership of the Hotel Clovis between the city and Tierra Realty of Taos.

“It’s my understanding that the developer they’re negotiating with is looking to do housing and if tax credits are part of it, that application process isn’t even until January,” said Beaubien. Her group helped secure two grants to clean up the Hotel Clovis earlier this year.

In April, Clovis city commissioners approved a transfer of ownership for the 78-year-old facility to Tierra Realty. At the time, it was hoped the transfer paperwork would be completed by July 31.

According to Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas, however, a final agreement has not yet been reached.

“We are still trying to finalize a contract with the proposed developer,” said Thomas, who said no unusual delays were taking place. “Nothing other than the usual give-and-take on the contract. They make a recommendation and we look at it, we make a counter-recommendation — it’s just negotiation back and forth.”

Tierra Realty, owned by Steve Crozier, expressed interest in turning the structure into an apartment complex. It’s the closest the Hotel Clovis has come to renewal since it closed in 1983.

The Portales Inn, however, has been this close, too.

The four-story building a block south of east-bound traffic on U.S. Highway 70 has been shut down since 2000. In 2006, owners of businesses nearby were certain it was going to reopen soon and expressed their excitement, or indifference, according to an article in the Portales News-Tribune.

It never happened.

“I wasn’t here, but it was probably a speculative announcement. I’m sure it was a developer who was excited about it,” said Greg Fisher, economic development director for the Roosevelt County Community Development Corp.

“Once we had a guy out of Santa Fe who was really into it. That was in ‘08, but his wife didn’t want him coming down here all the time,” Fisher said. “We had another group who did a whole assessment on it and they almost got there, but didn’t quite. Then the recession hit.”

The Portales Inn, which originally opened as the Calboykin Hotel in 1951, was the focus of a visit last week from a group of California developers.

Danny Woodward, president of Portales MainStreet, tried to suppress optimism about turning the old hotel into a viable part of modern downtown Portales — “tried” being the operative word.

“We’re showing it all the time. Whether someone wants to come in and show apartments and turn the downstairs into retail — we can utilize any of that,” said Woodward of the 60-room structure. “It’s in good shape; it shows very well. The structure is very, very sound and that last guy we showed it to was impressed.”

Portales MainStreet is actually the owner of the Portales Inn. The ownership came as part of a trade with Western Bank, which was looking for land in return for a swap, according to Woodward.

In Clovis, the city acquired the Hotel Clovis in 2004. For the time being, it’s still in possession of the city.

In the works, according to all involved, is the pending $13 million project to turn it into apartments — with the city committed to $500,000 of that amount.

“It takes time; everything is incremental when it comes to revitalizing downtown,” Beaubien said. “You take little steps and then something big happens and then you take some more little steps.

“It (the Hotel Clovis) has sat vacant for many years and it’s not going to be fixed overnight.”