Residents and tourists often drive by the boarded-up windows and the slow-growing weeds wondering, “What happened to the Indian Hills?”
The former Taos hotel on Paseo del Pueblo now sits vacant and boarded up after a lengthy battle between owner John Slenes and the town of Taos.
Town officials held several meetings discussing the condition of the hotel with Taos Fire Marshal Erik Oiesen-Vreeke, who presented a long list of fire code violations the property had built up. The council decided to condemn the hotel, a decision which Slenes tried to have reversed during a January meeting in which the council simply said, “No.”
“We agreed to a settlement in court that the building would be closed and secured, pending a sale that the owner represented was imminent,” said town Manager Rick Bellis in an email.
The property is listed for sale on LoopNet with a $1.875 million price tag. Slenes is listed as the broker.
The hotel is listed as needing “minimal to modest remodeling” and does say the hotel was closed for code violations. According to the post, engineers estimate the property requires $400,000-$500,000 in repairs to bring it back up to code.
A February 22, 2017 fire inspection of the property revealed numerous violations at the hotel that Oiesen-Vreeke directed management to resolve. Without the resolution to several problems, which included broken electrical issues and mold, the town was forced to take action and condemn the property.
The hotel has been vacant for over a month. Town officials are keeping an eye on the property to make sure the buildings aren’t damaged by vandals.
“On the law enforcement side of this, after we got all of the squatters out, we have been conducting frequent patrols and property checks of the old buildings as per request of the owner,” said Taos Police Chief David Trujillo. “We are trying to ensure that we do not end up with squatters further damaging rooms or the property.”
The property lies only a block from Taos plaza, which the real estate listing online features as a selling point. While not directly in the town’s scope, town officials have expressed hope for the hotel’s future and the possible improvement to the downtown area. The Indian Hills sits in the town’s downtown district that has been the focus of several public input meetings in the past.
“The Town is always willing to look at any opportunity that would improve the downtown, create economic development and job creation and add to the number of quality hotel rooms in our town as we are substantially under the number needed for a multi-season tourism destination, such as Taos,” Bellis said.
Slenes did not respond to requests for comment.