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New lease, life for SF’s Garrett’s Desert Inn

SANTA FE – State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has chosen developers for the Garrett’s Desert Inn property in downtown Santa Fe, with plans to update hotel’s interior and exterior and keep the popular Santa Fe Bite restaurant in place.

In an announcement Wednesday, Dunn announced that Arizona-based GreenTree Hospitality Group will partner with Albuquerque’s Peak Hospitality to lease and redevelop the 1950s-era hotel on Old Santa Fe Trail at Alameda, alongside the Santa Fe River and across the street from the State Land Office headquarters. The Land Office put out a bid for developers and announced four finalists in January. The office acquired the 2.7-acre site in 2016 through a land exchange with Cochiti Pueblo.

The winning bidders’ plans for the hotel, which will stay open during redevelopment, include remodeling the lobby, its main building, guest rooms and other areas with improvements like updated technology and furniture. Exterior renovations include replacing the portico, or roofing at the hotel’s entrance, and “improving curb appeal.”

According to a renovation summary provided by the State Land Office, the developers intend to take two separate small buildings on hotel property and turn one into a suite or extended stay room and the other into a spa. The summary also says the developers intend to remodel the hotel with a “sense of responsibility and respect” for Santa Fe’s historic downtown area. There’s been at least one court ruling that the city can’t impose its historic district architectural rules on state-owned land.

The Land Office said the GreenTree group made the “highest and best offer” — $300,000 annual base rent, a $100,000 bid bonus and 5 percent of annual gross revenues, more than $10 million over the 20-year term of the lease. The companies will have two optional 20-year renewal periods.

The money goes to the state land trust and will benefit the University of New Mexico, according to the land office. National firm HRV Hotel Partners also bid on the project.

“I welcome GreenTree and Peak to Santa Fe and appreciate their commitment to create a special destination for visitors and locals alike,” Dunn said in the Wednesday announcement.

Santa Fe Bite, the diner housed within Garrett’s Desert Inn and has received national recognition for its green chile cheeseburgers, will remain in the hotel’s street-corner restaurant space, the news release said. Co-owner John Eckre said he was happy to hear that the restaurant was invited to stay. He’s remaining “cautiously optimistic” because he has yet to meet with GreenTree about new subleasing terms and hopes the rent remains affordable. Santa Fe Bite’s current lease is up in December.

“We want to be here, and everyone we know (wants us to be here), and we’re happy not to disappoint them if our terms are okay,” said Eckre.

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