Explore two boutique hotels in Albuquerque «

    Explore two boutique hotels in Albuquerque

    N.M. — If there's such a thing as an itinerant hotel manager, Yancy Sturgeon certainly fills the bill. In the past five years, he has spent time in Dallas, Albuquerque and Atlanta, helping create some of the country's unique boutique hotels: respectively, the ZaZa, Andaluz and Glenn. His wanderlust and his significant past successes have lured him back to Albuquerque. His latest venture qualifies as his most challenging, since it required converting a long-closed hospital into the upscale Hotel Parq Central. It opened in October. Built in 1926 as an infirmary for male employees of the Santa Fe Railway, the hospital had its own heating plant, plus separate dormitories for doctors and nurses. In later years, it became a psychiatric hospital for children. Eventually, the entire campus would be added to the National Register of Historic Places, but not before the buildings in Albuquerque's now up-and-coming EDo (East of Downtown) neighborhood had fallen into disuse and disrepair. Gutting the buildings and tearing down the no-longer-needed bits, such as the power plant's smokestack, would normally be simple tasks for someone with Sturgeon's skills. But given the property's historic status, some of the biggest choices weren’t made by him or even the owners. “The ultimate decisions were out of Washington, D.C.,” Sturgeon says, referring to the National Park Service, which oversees the historic register. Government planners said no to a lot of requests. They ordered that the smokestack be shored up and maintained, and that the façade remain identical to when the corridors buzzed with patients and medical staff. That meant keeping the aging windows. The glass had to be acid-washed. The original hardware required restoration. And, after repair, the sashes were repainted in the original color scheme. To a longtime Albuquerque resident, the building could still be a hospital, if not for the change in signage. “Everything inside's brand-new,” Sturgeon, the managing director, quickly points out as he walks across the lobby's earth-tone tiles, custom-made in Silver City, N.M. “We took this all the way down to dirt,” he adds. Quiet, carpeted corridors now lead to spacious guest rooms with the expected upscale amenities. And where a 12,000-gallon water tank once sat on the top floor, providing a gravity feed to patient rooms, there's now a bright, modern lounge appropriately called The Apothecary. It offers vistas of Albuquerque from seating areas both indoors and on the rooftop. Even the naming of the bar provided Sturgeon with a curious challenge. Because it could imply the lounge was a pharmacy, he had to get permission from the state board of pharmacy to use the name. The board agreed — with a stipulation. “It's posted that we can’t dispense drugs,” he says in total seriousness. The property's 74 guest rooms are spread throughout four buildings, with landscaped, parklike spaces between them. The only place still reminiscent of its former life is the Doctors’ Residence, which has been converted from a warren of tiny sleeping rooms into spacious suites. All of the original woodwork, from the floors to the trim to the banisters, is intact. Along a hallway, the doors to the former sleeping quarters remain, by National Park Service edict, although they’re no longer functional. The residence also contains a living room for guests’ use. Once a lounge for on-call physicians, a working candlestick telephone still sits on a counter in the comfortable room. Moorish flavor Less than a mile away on a downtown side street, Albuquerque's first boutique hotel has the same feel as when Conrad Hilton built it in 1939. It reopened as the Hotel Andaluz in 2009. If still alive, Hilton would have no trouble recognizing the place. Sturgeon made sure that the 10-story building — once Albuquerque's tallest — stayed true to the design of a Moorish riad, or castle. In the sprawling lobby, two beautiful murals have been restored to their original grandeur. They were commissioned by the hotel magnate, a native New Mexican, to portray familiar Southwest themes. Steps away in what's now the reception area, the original black-and-white tiles remain from the room's years as the hotel barber shop. With just 107 rooms, the property was perfect for an alternative to what Sturgeon labels the big-box chain hotels. “Albuquerque shouldn’t be known as the cheap place [to stay] in the state,” he adds, referring to the upscale inns in popular destinations such as Santa Fe and Taos. Jay Jones is a freelance writer in Nevada. When you go Resources Hotel Parq Central: 505-242-0040; www.hotelparqcentral.com. Rates from $130. Hotel Andaluz: 505-242-9090; www.hotelandaluz.com. Rates from $139.

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