For over two years, the Hotel Don Fernando de Taos has sat vacant, waiting for the day when its doors can be opened. The wait is now over for tourists and Taoseños alike to once again walk the halls of the luxury hotel.
During the past year, various renovations to the exterior of the property have been witnessed by community members asking when the doors would be opened. From stonework to kitchenware, the Don Fernando went through a massive facelift along with a complete change up on the inside to ready it for guests once again.
"The Don Fernando has a legacy," said hotel developer and Regal Hospitality President Jay Batra. "We wanted to get past the datedness without losing its character."
Batra took on the project in 2017 wanting to restore some of the glory to the southern area of town. The hotel was built in 1989 and moved through various hands before Batra picked it up after realizing the potential in the property.
Moving from the inside out with repairs, Batra and his crews have readied the hotel over the past year. They have overcome several hurdles to bring the hotel back.
"We have a property that has been down for a couple of years," said Shane Davis, Regal Hospitality regional director of operations. "We've lived and breathed this thing since February. You can't respect something if you don't live it."
The property will be managed by Regal Hospitality and will eventually be under the umbrella of Hilton Hotels and Resorts.
Many of the challenges they faced during the renovation mostly related to the updates needed to meet building codes. According to Batra, federal disability law requirements had resulted in the makeover of restrooms and other areas of the hotel that took longer than usual. In addition, in compliance with Hilton Hotels' standards, internet had to be wired to the seven separate buildings on the property, which posed a major challenge; the last time internet was available on the property was 2016.
Despite the setbacks and challenges, the Don Fernando crew is preparing a soft opening for the hotel within a month. The finishing touches needed are final approval from Hilton and a liquor license approval for the bar, two details the team feels confident about.
"It's full of character," Batra said about the hotel.
Don Fernando is looking to hire for the upcoming months for some "front line" positions such as housekeepers and other staff. These will pay from $10 to $12 per hour.
The Don Fernando is set to be part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, which includes 10 other hotels around the world. The hotels carry the Hilton brand but are able to expand into the local culture and make the guest's stay more connected to the location. In keeping with local support, Batra and the crew are encouraging local artists to bring their work to be displayed at the hotel.
According to Batra, the project has cost millions of dollars. Despite the completion of various aspects of the job, Batra said he could not have opened the doors without the help of the local business vendors as well as local government.
Rooms at the Don Fernando will start around $169 per night and have been completely remodeled and renovated since guests last visited. The 126 rooms are spread throughout the 5-acre property and housed in six separate buildings. Each of the buildings went through extensive repairs including roof repair, window replacement and a whole new coat of paint. Currently, landscape work and final touches are being completed at the hotel and cleaning will begin as soon as construction is complete.