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Kress Building gets new life

Victoria Van Dame, the new building manager of the historic Kress building in Downtown Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Throughout the mid-20th century, the S.H. Kress building in Downtown Albuquerque operated as one of many S.H. Kress & Co. department stores scattered across the country.

But by the 1980s, the once-pristine building at 416 Central SW had begun to fall into disrepair. As of today, the building has been empty for many years, its trademark curved windows long since covered.

Soon, the historic building will be getting a new chance at life, according to Victoria Van Dame, who has been acting as the property’s de facto manager since the building’s owner, Anna Muller, moved to California for health reasons.

Van Dame, who prefers to call herself the building’s “legacy caretaker,” said she hopes to restore the building and create a gallery that draws in creatives across all fields – visual, music, performance arts and the culinary arts.

The historic Kress building in Downtown Albuquerque soon will be transformed into an art space.

“I really wanted to do a ‘Dress the Kress’ campaign where we have local artists put different murals and different multimedia arts in there and turn it into an art gallery,” she said.

Working remotely with Muller’s sister, Van Dame has started the process of renovating and cleaning out the properties owned by Muller.

“We need to revitalize and help her bring her life’s legacy back to fruition,” she said.

An occupational therapist by trade, Van Dame has been involved in the Downtown neighborhood since 2013 when she opened her nonprofit art gallery, OT Circus, using a model she hopes can be used at the Kress building.

Van Dame describes OT Circus as an art gallery with an occupational therapy approach, which is to say it is an art gallery that takes great care to make accommodations for people of all abilities.

“For example, the gal that we just had a show for had narcolepsy and different modifications were made to her show so she would be able to participate in the actual show,” Van Dame said. “We try to get everybody the ability to have a show and support the arts.”

The accommodations made by OT Circus allow artists who may not be able to show their work in a more traditional art gallery the space to incorporate with the community.

The OT Circus in Downtown Albuquerque is owned by the new manager of the Kress building.

“That’s along the same idea for what we’re going to do across the street by revitalizing Anna’s building,” she said.

Van Dame said she hopes the Kress building will follow the OT Circus model by making special accommodations for people of all abilities and being a space that can bring people together in the community.

There is no set date for the Kress building to open to the public, but Van Dame hopes that the remodel will be finished by late summer.

Renovations start at Monterey Motel

Several years after the El Vado reopened following a complete renovation, its next-door neighbor, the Monterey Motel at 2402 Central SW, is preparing for a similar redesign.

While the motel is currently in the demolition phase, developer Chad Rennaker said once it is completed, the motel will have more rooms and an additional building with hostel-like rooms that sleep multiple people.

Like the El Vado, which Rennaker also revitalized, the Monterey Motel will be restored to resemble what it looked like when it was built in the 1930s.

“The rooms are going to be restored, and they’re going to be very nice and upgraded with everything,” he said.

Rennaker expects the project to be completed by June, and guests will be able to start renting rooms in July.

The Monterey will have a pool and a bar once it opens.

“We’re actually planning to convert the existing lobby at the motel into a cocktail lounge with outdoor seating,” Rennaker said.

Like El Vado, there will be another apartment building named after the motel.

“It’s kind of a continuation of what we started at El Vado,” he said.

Rennaker said the overall plan is to continue improving that section of Central.

“We’re optimistic about the future for that end of Central.”

Ultra Health exporting to Israel

New Mexican cannabis company Ultra Health is the first American company to begin exporting cannabis-based medicine to Israel, according to a spokeswoman.

The company began exports earlier this month through a partnership with Israeli pharmaceutical group Panaxai, Marissa Novel said. The medicine was created using hemp grown in Bernalillo County.

“We are grateful to the New Mexico Environment Department and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, who had a key role in making all of this happen,” Duke Rodriguez, CEO and president of Ultra Health, said in a statement.

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