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Conversion helps fill need for housing in Carlsbad

CARLSBAD – The former Post Time Saloon is set to become part of the solution to one of Carlsbad’s biggest problems: housing.

Many Carlsbadians remember getting drinks at the popular saloon, and then when it closed a few years ago and became the Luxe Nightclub.

That business closed last year, leaving a vacant property with an aging hotel and empty bar.

Enter Nuclear Waste Partnership and a contract to rebuild the ventilation system at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

Houston-based Critical Applications Alliance was hired for the project and began bringing workers into Carlsbad. The contract is for about $400 million and the job will take about three years job.

The contractor is a joint venture between Christensen Building Group and Kilgore Industries, created to seek contracts for work at WIPP and in the oil and gas industry.

Critical Applications Alliance was hired to build Occidental Petroleum’s transloading facility for frack sand in Loving, and the company’s first project in southeast New Mexico was a similar facility in Jal in 2014. And since it needed a place for workers to stay, the company bought the Post Time property and began refurbishing it to offer an “upscale” hotel.

“We noticed there were continuing opportunities at the WIPP site,” said Mark Christensen, founder of Christensen Building Group. “We put together a strategic joint venture to pursue that work.

“We’re bringing families. We’re bringing our resources. Because of competition with the oil and gas industry, we wanted to control our resources.”

The recent oil boom in southeast New Mexico caused a crisis in Carlsbad’s housing market.

Homes for sale are rare, and hotel room rates skyrocketed above $300 per night.

Workers and tourists alike have struggled for a place to stay.

The Post Time Suites will be ready by July, with 40 rooms featuring king and double beds, Christensen said.

His company also built office space near Canal and Wood streets two years ago, establishing a permanent presence in Carlsbad.

“We wanted to really establish ourselves as committed to Carlsbad,” Christensen said. “We wanted to give something back and be a part of the community.”

For Jeff Campbell, director of marketing and business development at the Carlsbad Department of Development, more beds are always welcome, especially downtown.

An area in downtown Carlsbad was recently distinguished as the Pearl of the Pecos Arts and Culture District (ACD). The district is one square mile in downtown, encompassing Carlsbad’s MainStreet and Historic districts.

“It’s good to have a hotel in that area,” Campbell said. “It can encourage people to walk around and experience downtown.”

Campbell said there were at least four hotel projects going in the Carlsbad area, providing rooms for a large influx of oil and gas workers and other employees into the area.

Eddy County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.1% in February, according to data from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.

“There is still a lot of need for housing in the area,” Campbell said. “A lot of companies use hotels for their employees. Each of these projects is doing something different.”

The two-story hotel surrounds the building that was once the Post Time Saloon and later the Luxe Nightclub. It was likely built in about the 1950s, Christensen said.

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