SANTA FE – There’s a big new addition to Santa Fe’s downtown hotel market.
The 182-room Drury Plaza Hotel officially opened for business earlier this month 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.
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 few weeks before the fine-tuning is finished and all 182 rooms are ready for occupancy, but business has begun.
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.
More amenities are found on the fifth floor: 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.
While Drury has spent years and untold amounts of money to invest in Santa Fe and convert the site into an upscale hotel, Malik said now that it’s open, the focus will be on customer service.