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Subsidiary of Drury Hotels Acquires the St. Vincent Hospital Property in  Downtown
 Santa Fe;  Redevelopment Will Likely Include a Hotel Component

By Julie Ann Grimm, The Santa Fe New MexicanMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 29, 2007 - A Midwestern hotel chain has purchased the original St. Vincent Hospital property in downtown Santa Fe and plans to seek city approval for its redevelopment.

Local real-estate developer Lee Clodfelter confirmed this week that in October his partnership sold the nearly 5-acre site of Santa Fe's first hospital, which includes the circa 1911 Marian Hall and 1950s-era La Villa Rivera building.

Clodfelter, one of eight investors in Marian Hall LLC who bought the buildings from the state of New Mexico in 2003, said a subsidiary of Drury Hotels paid more than $20 million for the property.

Drury Hotels wants to preserve and restore the multistory buildings on the site but does not have a detailed vision of how it will use the property, corporate counsel Herb Wedemeier said Friday.

"We don't know what the heck it is going to be yet," he said during a telephone interview from the company's development headquarters in Cape Girardeau, Mo. "Our primary business is hotels, and we think a good hotel component there is important. ... We are in the very preliminary stages of evaluating the property."

Drury operates 120 hotels in 19 states, including the Drury Inn & Suites in Albuquerque, according to its Web site. Wedemeier said the size of a hotel on the Santa Fe property would depend on what other uses are approved for the site.

The company has no plans to raze the buildings, said project manager Brain Nenninger, noting interior restoration and renovation is likely to mean the building's facades remain the same or are returned to earlier conditions if appropriate.

Drury has completed historic renovation of hotels in other cities, including Austin, Texas, and New Orleans, and wants to create a Santa Fe project that keeps the city's "design feel," he said. "The appeal of being in Santa Fe is to fit in with what Santa Fe has created over the last many years."

City Land Use Department Director Jack Hiatt said the company has not submitted any applications for redevelopment of the site.

It's not clear at this early stage of planning to what extent Drury's plans might relate to plans by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to redevelop property on the same block adjacent to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Nenninger said. The archdiocese has hired a Texas development firm and tried to get approval to build a hotel, retail stores and residential units on its 6-plus acres at the site of the old St. Francis Cathedral School but withdrew its application in the face of some public opposition.

An archdiocese spokeswoman said Friday that she could not reach anyone with information on the status of that project.

The history of the downtown former hospital property dates to at least 1865, when nuns opened a hospital in an adobe building there and eventually also operated a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients. Various incarnations of the facilities included a multistory building with a French-style mansard roof that mostly burned in an 1896 fire. A two-story brick orphanage on the site was demolished around 1955, newspaper records indicate.

The two buildings that occupy the site now are connected by a lower-level walkway. Marian Hall is a compact, three-story structure with a brick facade that was built around 1911 along Palace Avenue, and La Villa Rivera is a pink, four-story, tiered building at Palace Avenue and Paseo de Peralta that was designed by John Gaw Meem and completed in 1953.

The new owners are not the first to consider using the buildings for a hotel. After St. Vincent Hospital moved to its present location on St. Michael's Drive in 1977 and the state bought the buildings the next year, officials entertained several proposals for redevelopment, including ones for a Hilton hotel and for a retail complex with several stories of condominiums.

Those plans were dropped, however, and the buildings then were used to house five state agencies. Villa Rivera -- which was named for a murdered Santa Fe clergyman, Rev. Reynaldo Rivera -- was home to La Residencia nursing home for two decades beginning in 1983.

The last vestige of medical services at the location, the Community Guidance Center, was moving out of the building this week to a new building on the city's south side. Workers packed chairs from the offices and waiting rooms into trucks on Thursday.

Doug Smith, vice president of Presbyterian Hospital, said Wednesday that the clinic -- which offered health care and behavioral health care and served many of the city's uninsured -- was not asked to leave the building but instead was taking advantage of a chance to expand in a more modern facility in the Rodeo Plaza complex.

The state Public Regulation Commission still uses Marian Hall for more than 50 employees in its divisions involving utilities, telecommunications, consumer relations and records. The PRC has about a year left on its lease and will be welcome to stay longer given the undecided nature of redevelopment plans, Nenninger said.

He said Drury is working on its first hotel with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification, in Flagstaff, Ariz., and will consider making its Santa Fe project "as environmentally friendly as possible."

Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 986-3017 or jgrimm@sfnewmexican.com.

Timeline:

1865: Sisters of Charity arrive in Santa Fe from Ohio and open a small adobe hospital near the Plaza. Over the years, new rooms and floors are built, leading to additional buildings, including an orphanage and a three-story brick building with the first slate roof in the territory.

1896: Stately building with French mansard roof is destroyed by fire.

1911: Marian Hall is built facing the park next to the cathedral. Its third floor is used as a tuberculosis sanitarium, with the other two floors for general practice.

1953: A four-story hospital building with 200 beds designed by John Gaw Meem opens at Paseo de Peralta and Palace Avenue.

1970: St. Vincent Hospital switches to a board of trustees structure as a nonprofit corporation.

1977: The hospital moves to St. Michael's Drive.

1978: State of New Mexico buys the downtown complex for $2 million and provides offices for five state agencies after renovations. Later, Gov. Bruce King names the larger of the buildings "La Villa Rivera" after a slain priest, the Rev. Reynaldo Rivera.

1983-2003: La Residencia nursing home, run by Presbyterian Medical Services, provides housing for ailing seniors in La Villa Rivera.

2003: Marian Hall LLC, a group of investors that includes Steve Duran, Christopher Webster and Lee Clodfelter, buys the buildings from the state.

2004: Archdiocese of Santa Fe announces plans to work with Marian Hall LLC to redevelop nearby land adjacent to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

2006: In the face of development-review hurdles, the archdiocese fails to secure permits and puts the brakes on its plans.

2007: A Drury Hotels subsidiary, DSW Santa Fe LLC, pays a reported $20 million for the property.

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To see more of The Santa Fe New Mexican, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.santafenewmexican.com/.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Santa Fe New Mexican

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