Hotel project on pace for summer ’14 opening

The tower crane behind the old St. Vincent Hospital will be taken down on Feb. 20. That’s some kind of milestone in the big construction project under way there since the spring of 2012. The tall crane has been indispensable in two major aspects of the project to convert the 1954 hospital into a 200-room hotel: building a parking garage and an addition to the hotel’s south side.
The addition walls are being built with AMVIC blocks, an insulated concrete form produced in Canada. (The last time such white blocks were seen on a downtown Santa Fe project was in 2007-2008, when another brand of ICF, Nudura, was used for the New Mexico History Museum.) These hollow polystyrene blocks are stacked like Legos on anchored rebar, then concrete is poured through the centers. The walls of the parking garage use less-expensive steel framing. The garage, designed to accommodate 204 vehicles, follows the grade of the land, which falls off away from Paseo de Peralta — it’s a 10-foot drop from Paseo to the old boiler building, which will be converted to serve as a conference center. (The smokestacks will stay.)

“The top of the highest part of the garage will be a half-story higher than Travel Bug across the street,” said Drury’s Santa Fe project manager, Brian Nenninger. “We still have to pour the third level. The whole building is for parking except for a one-story, 4,000-square-foot building, on the Paseo end of the parking structure, which will have some kind of retail.”

Besides all of the activity on the former parking lot between the old hospital and the New Mexico School for the Arts — both John Gaw Meem buildings — Drury has been busy inside the future hotel. Virtually all of the interior walls have been removed. What’s left are the hefty, cement supporting columns. “This is a poured-in-place concrete building,” Nenninger pointed out. “It’s a pretty stout building; you can’t do too much to it.”

The existing walls are made up of two layers of brick on the exterior and about eight inches of plaster and fireblock on the inside. The 10-inch voids between the two will be filled with insulation. The building’s overall insulation factor will be a huge improvement over its previous condition.

The hotel’s main entrance, under a second-story post-and-beam balcony with white wood balustrades and modillion cornice, will be on the south side, looking across a broad, paved area to the old boiler building and the northwest corner of the parking garage.

It’s all being done in the Territorial Revival mode, tieing into the 1954 building’s brick parapets and occasional, white-painted pedimented lintels. “The new building can’t be exactly like the existing; you want to be able to discern that it’s later, and that goes even for the brick coping on the roofline,” Nenninger said. “It will be a similar color, a similar reference, but not exactly the same.”

The old hospital is brick, painted over. The addition on the south side includes two implied tower elements. “Meem used that on another façade so these refer to what he did, and they will be brick and painted but in a different shade from the original building. Everything else that’s new will be stucco.”

The hospital was designed and built on a budget, which explains the fact that the E. Palace facades (and to some extent the Paseo de Peralta facades) are much more decorative — including with sections of ornamental brickwork between some windows — than the walls facing the former parking lot. The implied tower that Meem did is on an east-facing facade. It’s the highest section of the series stepping away from E. Palace Avenue. The topmost of the four windows is one of the building’s fancier ones, with a Territorial-style frame including a dentil cornice on the pediment, as well as a projecting, 8-post balcony element.

“It’s just a flat wall section, but when you’re looking up, it looks like a tower. It’s a very creative gesture that Meem did.”

When the hotel is complete, Drury may start immediately on the next phase: conversion of the 1908 Marian Hall into a 30-room boutique hotel. Or that may be put off for a year or two. Either way, the Marian Hall roof will be replaced this summer.

While the hospital interior was modified significantly over the years, Marian Hall next door “has quite a bit of historic fabric,” Nenninger said. As such, it will be changed to a lesser degree. “We will maintain the original hallways, although the rooms on either side were changed over the years and we will be changing them. In the original sanitarium, you didn’t have your own bedroom; you had beds lined up, so the rooms were bigger and the Sisters over time changed the uses, including for a convent and a girls’ school, then later the state came in to use it for offices.”

Drury plans to restore the old main entry in line with Cathedral Park, the glass atrium (enclosed sun porch) on the hall’s west end, and the verandas with their handsome white-painted wood railings and pickets. “Replacing all of those is an undertaking, but we have quite a few carpenters in our workforce and there are quite a few excellent people locally who can do this kind of work as well.”

Marian Hall’s historic chapel will be restored, as will the old dining hall.

At the northeast corner of the property, across from the historic Willi Spiegelberg house (now Peyton Wright Gallery), the lawn area will be preserved and improved, but Drury will remove the bridges or “ambulatories” that were added a few decades ago between the hospital building and Marian Hall.

Drury Plaza Hotel is the sixth or seventh in a new line of full-service hotels Drury has developed, althought select-service hotels are still the company’s bread and butter. For local reference, Nenninger said the new hotel will be “several steps above” the Drury location on Jefferson Street in Albuquerque. The company is also getting a reputation for sensitive “adaptive re-use” projects. Just before starting the Santa Fe project, Drury finished a historic remodel on a 90-year-old hotel in Wichita, Kansas.

One of the organizing principles of the Drury Plaza Hotel master plan is a promenade that thematically extends the central path in Cathedral Park through the Drury property. Nenninger said that because that promenade and other landscaping will be completed in this same phase, the whole five-acre site will look finished when the hotel opens in the summer of 2014.

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Neil D. Lyon CRB, CRS, GRI Cell: 505.660.8600 Direct: 505.954.5505

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