|By Richard Metcalf, Albuquerque Journal,
N.M.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 12, 2009 - Santa Fe's Hotel St. Francis is about to undergo a monastic makeover. Throwing out the stylebook on new urbanism, the hotel's new owner Jim Long said he took his inspiration for the makeover from the Franciscan Order whose members helped establish the City Different.
"Here, utter simplicity will be an exacting art," he said. "It's all about serenity and calmness."
The 82-room hotel's interior public areas will get light-colored tumbled travertine tile floors, stone-faced wainscoting and hand-applied venetian plaster on the walls and a generally rustic Old World patina that evokes picturesque old buildings in places like France's Provence or Italy's Tuscany.
Guests entering St. Francis will first encounter a gurgling baptismal font. Gregorian chants and Native American flute music will play in the background. The lobby and other public areas will be lit by candles, likely in oil lamps but candles nonetheless. All modern amenities will be out of sight and, by design, possibly out of mind.
The remodel "will look like it belongs in Santa Fe," Long said. "We're telling the story of Franciscan missionaries in New Mexico."
Work is scheduled to begin within the next 30 days, with completion in June. The public areas will be redone early in the project, with the 82 rooms done in phases at the two- and threestory building at 210 Don Gaspar. A new elevator will also be installed.
"There's virtually nothing (inside) that will be untouched by this renovation," Long said, adding that the exterior of the 42,000-square-foot hotel will not change.
Long's company, Albuquerque-based Heritage Hotels & Resorts Inc., has developed its six hotels -- St. Francis will be the seventh -- with an eye to local culture and traditions. One of the company's goals is for its properties "to reflect the character of the communities where they are located," Long said.
Partly as a consequence, none of the hotels are affiliated with a brand like Sheraton or Hyatt, which require adherence to certain standards. The result is a reliable sameness in upscale branded hotels regardless of where they're located.
The starting point for the monastic makeover was the hotel's name: St. Francis of Assisi founded the Fransiscan Order 800 years ago in Italy. He is also the patron saint of Santa Fe, not to mention animals and the environment.
For Long, there's even a personal connection. An uncle, Salvador Aragon, is a Franciscan who formerly served as pastor of St. Francis Cathedral Basilica in Santa Fe.
Since it's based on a monastic order, the design is grounded in simplicity. The interior palette will be whites, browns and grays inspired by the undyed wool of the Colcha sheep. Long said, "The Franciscan color scheme is very basic and natural."
Furnishings throughout the hotel, including the rooms, will be largely handmade in New Mexico. "This is a very artisan-driven design," said Kris Lajeskie, an interior designer who helped plan the remodel. "We're trying to keep as much production local as possible."
From a culinary standpoint, the hotel will emphasize a broad wine selection in a nod to the role that Franciscans played in establishing the first vineyards in New Mexico. The menu will be based on organic food that's in season.
The renovation and remodel will cost "several million dollars," much of its on the furnishings, Long said.
Richard Metcalf covers commercial real estate
for the Journal. You may reach him at 823-3972
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