|By Diane Velasco, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 18, 2004 - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Jim Long is at it again.
The man behind the Sheraton Old Town's renaissance five years ago has decided his Wyndham Garden Hotel on Pan American Freeway needs to shed the brand name and go independent in a major way.
The $1.5 million planned transformation will blend New Mexico's traditional Pueblo style and colors with contemporary furniture.
"We're bringing back hospitality originality that Albuquerque was famous for at the turn of the (last) century," Long said.
The hotel will be called Nativo Lodge, a statement about the richness of the city's native culture, he said.
"We will be showcasing how Albuquerque can link 300 years of history with a modern image of itself," he said. "That is where Albuquerque has struggled as a city. With no strong vision of what it wants to be, it has adopted style from elsewhere instead of looking inward."
But the Wyndham's renovation will be "very, very different" from his remake of the Sheraton Old Town, which was done in a nostalgic theme.
"This one will have a whole theatrical feel instead of an historical feel," Long said.
He drew his inspiration for Nativo Lodge from the Pueblo and art-deco styles of the KiMo Theatre, the Albuquerque Indian Hospital and the Shaffer Hotel in Mountainair.
But the Wyndham will have a contemporary look, similar to the Q Bar of the Sheraton Old Town, a corner experiment within that hotel.
Long's American Property Management Corp. has owned the 150-room Wyndham Garden Hotel for five years and employs about 45 people there.
Long is betting he can beat the branded competition by going independent and distinctive.
"There's a glut of branded hotel products that are all the same, no originality whatsoever. That's where we think there's an opportunity," he said.
At one time, Albuquerque had some great hotels, such as the original Conrad Hilton's and the Alvarado, said Jason Cosyleon, the project manager.
"Unfortunately, Albuquerque lost its sense of uniqueness and identity," he said. "The reason behind the Nativo is to recapture that uniqueness, built upon the symbolism of the cultures here, but we want to do it in a progressive way with contemporary and fresh style."
Interior design changes to the hotel include turning the five-story atrium lobby into a "grand lobby" more conducive to socializing, with extra-large seating, oversized light fixtures, reading areas and four large video screens showing images of Western skies and flute players.
By contrast, most hotels are designed to "channel" guests to their rooms instead of encouraging them to socialize, Long said.
The hotel's 7,000 square feet of meeting space will get updated audiovisual equipment. The rooms can accommodate groups from 125 to 225 people.
The changes will make the property one of a kind in Albuquerque, said Art Bouffard, head of the New Mexico Hotel/Motel Association.
"This would be a first, and should have a dramatic impact on the traveling public," Bouffard said.
Long hopes to time the re-opening with the start of the city's tricentennial celebration in April; the hotel will stay open during the changes.
The renovated hotel "will be a great place for many tricentennial events and will draw international guests," said Jerry Geist with the city's Tricentennial Commission, who has seen drawings of the renovations.
"He is spending money on this to bring out the best of what we are in New Mexico as opposed to a modern, typical structure," Geist said.
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