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Inn at Rio Rancho to convert to apartment complex

The Panorama Inn, as depicted on a postcard, about 50 years ago. (Observer File Photo)

The new owner of the iconic Inn at Rio Rancho is hoping to convert the building into a high-end apartment complex, according to its new owner.

The facility at 1465 Rio Rancho Dr SE, built in 1967 and originally called the Panorama Inn has been the site of countless community events over the years. New owner Tyler Gerard of Albuquerque told the Observer he’ll have 118 apartments in the complex, which he also envisions having retail spaces and, hopefully, a coffee shop/restaurant open around the clock.

Before the remodel, a land-use zoning amendment for the inn has to come before the city’s planning and zoning board, which will make a recommendation before the governing body makes a decision.

Gerard is confident P&Z will approve the amendment, and the governing body will follow its recommendation. Given that, Gerard said, he expects the project to be completed in one year.

History

Sheila Jane Furstenberg, who penned a history of Rio Rancho, noted the establishment was the first inn on Albuquerque’s West Side. Guests enjoyed dancing and entertainment in The Galleon Lounge, and dined with a view of the mountains in the Vista Room.

“Many people in the community have fond memories of events there, and over the past decade, we have seen this once-vibrant hotel become dilapidated,” said Jerry Schalow, president and CEO of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Rio Rancho is in need of more options for visitors and a convention center worthy of Rio Rancho’s growing population.”

The inn is situated on a 23-acre site near the northwest corner of Sara Road and NM 528, which sees an estimated 60,000 vehicles pass through per day. It has been remodeled numerous times, including in 1999, 2004 and 2008.

A press release in January 2008 heralded the remodeled facility as the “only full-service property in Rio Rancho,” featuring “fully functional convention and meeting facilities along with 118 plush rooms.”

Arthur Han was the inn’s most recent previous owner; he said he bought it last September and sold it to Gerard, an Iowa native and real estate investor, on June 26.

Gerard said his 528 Development partnership “is not going to be a motel/hotel; it’ll be residential living with commercial space up front, restaurant and retail.

“The city seems to be behind the project,” he said, adding, “I tried buying the property a year ago.”

Among other plans Gerard has for the inn are upgrading the courtyard and pool.

“We’ll add a lot of features that apartments have – a high-end rec room and movie theater, add synthetic grass, add new trees that are less hard on the pool. Those (pine needles) just destroy that pool equipment,” he said.

Inside, Gerard said, “We took all the history and artwork off the walls, and we’ll have a feature wall that has all that to pay tribute to the city’s history.

“I can promise it’s going to be a breath of fresh air and brought back to life, different than people remember, but it’s going to make people proud,” he said. “I think the timing is right. The city is giving a push to be pro-business, and we have a shortage of apartments – and it’s getting worse every year.”

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