SANTA FE, N.M. — There’s a big new addition to Santa Fe’s downtown hotel market.
While a “soft” opening was held last month, the 182-room Drury Plaza Hotel officially opened for business this week.
But it’ll still be a while before the vision laid out for the hotel – in what used to be a hospital – is fully complete.
“The project is being built in three phases, so we still have a ways to go,” Tauseen Malik, the hotel’s general manager, said on a tour of the property this week.
Planning for the project – an adaptive reuse conversion of the landmark five-story building originally built as St. Vincent Hospital in the early 1950s – began seven years ago when Drury purchased the property, Malik said.
Careful thought went into the redesign of the five-acre site just east of the Plaza behind the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, as well as the layout, amenities and artistic elements found inside the hotel.
“Everything is handpicked,” Malik said, while standing in the lobby of the hotel, redesigned in a territorial revival style by Santa Fe architect Mark Hogan.
Malik pointed to a large chandelier hanging above a cozy lounge area furnished with couches, chairs, and end and coffee tables situated in front of a sandstone fireplace.
The chandelier and lighting fixtures throughout the hotel are from Firefly Lighting of Tesuque, he notes. The furniture comes from Drury’s factory in St. Louis and, while not “Santa Fe style,” is nonetheless befitting of a four-star hotel in the downtown of The City Different.
Still, tweaks are being made. Malik said a colorful painting leaning from the mantle above the lobby’s fireplace will likely be replaced with that of a deer skull, reminiscent of an O’Keeffe.
Malik said it will be another two or three weeks before the fine-tuning is finished and all 182 rooms are ready for occupancy, but business has begun. Next weekend, the Drury Plaza Hotel will host its first major event in its 3,800-square-foot ballroom, a symposium put on by the Women’s International Study Center that will include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as one of the speakers.
Drury owns more than 130 properties in 20 states. Santa Fe’s is the third in New Mexico, the others being in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, but Malik said this is the most upscale of the trio.
Aside from the construction that has taken place over the past few years, the old hospital property hasn’t seen much activity over the past decade.
“This space has been dormant for years,” said Malik, who previously served as regional assistant general manager for Heritage Hotels & Resorts in Santa Fe. “What Drury has done is brought life to this space.”
The building used to be a place life began for many Santa Feans. Cynthia Delgado, marketing director at Tourism Santa Fe, was one of countless city residents born there while it served as a hospital from 1953-77.
The building was then sold to the state, which used it to house the Department of Cultural Affairs and other state offices.
“It’s cool to go back and look at it now,” she said. “The property basically was abandoned. Santa Fe prides itself on having a vibrant downtown area and whenever you have a large amount of space like that that’s vacant, it’s a hole. Drury has beautifully filled that hole.”
Delgado said it’s not just the hotel that’s filling the hole. The restaurant in the main building, scheduled to open some time this fall, will enhance Santa Fe’s reputation as a culinary center, she said.
“There are really two exciting things about that: the restaurant and the quality of the chef,” she said of John Rivera Sedlar, a Santa Fe native who operated successful restaurants in Los Angeles and was deemed “the Father of Modern Southwest Cuisine” by Gourmet magazine. “It’s for reasons like that it will be such an incredible destination.”
Malik says the restaurant will be called “Eloisa,” named after Sedlar’s grandmother, a professional chef herself who helped teach him how to serve up authentic New Mexico food. The restaurant, which will have a separate entrance on Palace Avenue, will specialize in Southwestern Latin fusion cuisine, and be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
Patrons of the hotel can also visit a second floor space overlooking the lobby to enjoy a hot breakfast in the morning and dinner snacks at night, as well as three drinks from the bar – all at no extra charge. Malik says that’s in keeping with one of Drury’s catchphrases, “Extras Aren’t Extra.”
More amenities are found on a trip up to the fifth floor, where there’s a fitness center, outdoor swimming pool – something of a rarity in Santa Fe – and whirlpool on the rooftop, as well as event space offering panoramic views of the city and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
The building also houses a 24-hour business center, meeting rooms and sitting nooks where guests can go to relax or socialize in small groups.
The hotel rooms vary in size and configuration.
“Because it’s an historic building and because of the adaptive reuse, we have a lot of different types of rooms,” Malik said.
Some come with terraces, some have bedrooms separated from seating areas and their own fireplace, but even the simplest have large bathrooms and offer comfortable accommodations tastefully decorated with Southwest artwork.
Art is a big part of the concept Drury incorporated into its plans.
Malik says art broker Bobby Beals headed the hotel’s art project, lining up the paintings and sculptures that adorn the building, all of which are for sale.
The tour moves outside onto a properly oriented compass-rose design on the main driveway, accessed from Paseo de Peralta. Malik says the hotel provides valet parking only for the 280 spaces. “Being downtown, that’s a luxury,” he said.
About 40 percent of the property is devoted to open space. “That’s a lot for a hotel this size,” he says.
The landscape architect company Surroundings did most of the design and Cassidy’s Landscaping is involved in adding trees and foliage. Sod was just laid for what’s going to be the “Wedding Cove” in the northeast part of the property.
Malik points out where a promenade will begin, linking the property to Canyon Road and Santa Fe’s downtown.
“The whole idea is to take the promenade and connect it with Cathedral Park,” he says, adding that Drury owns a piece of the park.
Between the park and the hotel’s main building stands Marian Hall, built in 1910 and originally serving as St. Vincent’s sanatorium. Interestingly, even then, visitors to Santa Fe could rent rooms, just as they could in a hotel, provided rooms were available.
Malik said Marian Hall may eventually be converted into a high-end boutique branch of the hotel.
Another nearby structure is the former hospital’s old boiler building, which will house meeting rooms on two levels; its renovation is nearly complete.
In all, the hotel will have 17,000 square feet of meeting space.
The one new building on the property is the parking garage, which Malik said will also house retail shops facing Paseo de Peralta.
While Drury has spent years and untold amounts of money to invest in Santa Fe and convert the old hospital into an upscale hotel, Malik said now that it’s open, the focus will be on customer service.
“Our overall philosophy is ‘Guests First.’ There’s a lot of focus on service and personalization when it comes to Drury,” Malik said, noting that J.D. Powers has recognized Drury Hotels for excellence in customer service for nine straight years. “It’s the small things that make the hotel so special … . We’re positioning ourselves as a four-star hotel where guests can enjoy all that Santa Fe has to offer right in the heart of downtown.”