BELENThe Belen City Council is giving the potential buyers of the Kuhn Hotel one more month to receive renovation bids before deciding whether to demolish the building.  

In June, Vidal Torres, the city’s community preservation director, recommended the structure be torn down because of its dilapidated state and safety hazards the old hotel brings to the property and area.  

Joan Artiaga, the current owner of the building, said she has given the deed to Dave and Julia Parton, and has offered to sell them the property in hopes they will renovate and save the building.  

“I apologize for how bad it’s gotten,” Artiaga told the council at a special meeting on Aug. 7. “From health issues, to family issues, I just haven’t been able to keep up with it. (The Partons) have the money and the strength.”  

The Partons, of Stepping Stones Investment Properties, have not yet signed a purchase agreement nor recorded the deed, but did present their preliminary plans for the two-story, terron building on First Street. 

“My wife and I are drawn (to the Kuhn Hotel), because it’s beautiful and old,” Dave Parton told the council. “We’re happy to work and help keep Belen strong.” 

Mike Powers | News-Bulletin photo
The Kuhn Hotel received a reprieve from demolition, at least for the time being.

The couple has worked for several years renovating and remodeling eight different properties in Belen. Dave Parton said their work through Stepping Stones Investment Properties is to help people improve their credit and be able to buy their own homes.  

Parton estimates the Kuhn Hotel, which was built in 1906, will cost between $1.3 to $1.7 million to renovate, including at least $100,000 to replace the roof.  

“It’s not a registered historical building, which means we can make the best decisions,” he said. “If it were, we would probably have to put a period roof, which would cost twice as much.” 

Parton said if the city did decide to demolish the building, the property would be rendered unsalable because it would remain deserted and would continue to attract vagrancy. He also said if and when the city does demolish it, there would be a lien on the property, which would make it less desirable for potential buyers.  

Parton said if everything fell into place, such as investors and price quotes, he would be looking at renovating the building to include 13 studio apartments and three, one-bedroom apartments.   

“The key improvements would be a new, black propanel roof, new windows, a new period-looking stucco, all new plumbing with fire suppression and all new electrical,” Parton said.  

He told the council he envisions potential residents to be people from Albuquerque who are stressed by the price point living in the Duke City, and even people in Los Lunas where housing is also at high price.  

Parton said he’s waiting for bids from one of three contractors who would be doing the majority of the work on the building, and is in “conversations with multiple investors.” 

“From a pragmatic standpoint, I can see the need to bulldoze this building,” he said. “I like cleaning house and clearing out the corners. But from an investment standpoint, I don’t see how that strategy works. 

“For a company looking to bring $1.3 million in an active investment, there is still tons of room for so much more, like food trucks, storage units, a micro-brewery,” Parton said.   

“What you’re asking for is a reasonable amount of time,” Mayor Robert Noblin told Parton. “In today’s world, there are a lot of what if’s when dealing with contractors. Is that a realistic time line?” 

Parton said it was a fair question, and they have been working since June to acquire bids.  

“This is a great time to be investing in real estate and investing in a building that is already standing,” he said.  

“Personally, it speaks a lot to your character and … I wouldn’t lift a finger until we make a decision today,” Noblin said. “I find it refreshing people are willing to invest the time, energy and money into the city of Belen.” 

The city council agreed to extend the time line until mid-September, and Parton agreed to help secure the property until a decision is made. 

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.