Las Vegas’ Crown Jewel: Remediation, remodeling move ahead as the Hotel Castañeda prepares to re-open

By Jason W. Brooks
Copyright 2018 Las Vegas Optic

Zipping down Interstate 25, in between the exits located at the far ends of town, passers-by might be able to catch a glimpse of one of Las Vegas’ crown jewel hotels: the Castañeda.

Circling the Las Vegas Plaza, it would be fairly tough to miss one of the city’s most cherished places to stay — The Plaza Hotel. Both have received major upgrades and makeovers in the past few years — and both are central parts of a hopefully resurgent economy and population growth in the Las Vegas area.

Allan Affeldt said he’s in the process of creating a 501(c) (3) nonprofit foundation, with a board of directors, that is taking over the direction of the Castañeda project and the operation of the hotel. Within the past year, there have been enough pieces of the financing side of the Castañeda’s projects to start and complete some major work on the former Harvey House hotel, which hasn’t been used as a regular hotel since 1948.

The plan is to re-open at least the ground floor of the Castañeda for events in the fall or early winter of 2019. Most of the major remodeling at the Plaza Hotel was done in the years leading up to 2017 but 2018 brought a welcome change that didn’t require tearing down walls.

The Range Café, a popular chain of several diner-style restaurants in the greater Albuquerque area, purchased the Plaza Hotel’s liquor license this past year, bringing in its brand of comfort food and drinks into the first floor in what seems to be a well-blended combination.

Affeldt also owns the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Ariz., where he has a residence, and it has also taken a great deal of resources to restore that landmark. The plans for the Castañeda seem to more closely resemble La Posada’s multi-functional space use than the Plaza, but all three sites seem destined to attract visitors.

First opened in 1898, the Castañeda closed in the 1940s, and it was saved from demolition at least once through the years.

Don and Marie Eldh owned the Castañeda from 1973 until the historic building was sold to Affeldt, his wife, Tina Mion, and their business partner, Daniel Lutzick, in the spring of 2014. The New Mexico Finance Authority approved Affeldt’s purchase of the Plaza Hotel a couple of months later.

Recently, some more pieces of the financing were approved and a local Castañeda nonprofit foundation board was put together.
The majestic hotel will be the site of much hammering, scraping and resurfacing in the past year or so, and the past 12 months have been active as well.

Removing a metal hood from a fireplace, asbestos removal, creating wheelchair ramps, replacing gutters and awnings, flooring, windows, doors, plumbing and electrical, choosing window-trim colors and inspecting surfaces along the cupola that rises majestically above the Castañeda are among the many projects within the project.

“It’s a real challenge to get up to modern code and still keep the historic sense of the place,” Affeldt said, pointing to the brick-laden steps around the building that must eventually include wheelchair accessibility. “We peel back the layers of the onion and only then find out how much work there is to be done. We’re tackling the environmental stuff, but we still don’t even know how much work there is until we start pulling things apart.”

Affeldt pointed across Railroad Avenue from the Castañeda to both the Rawlins House, another 1890s building, where the majority owners since 1996, Tina and Tom Clayton, have put major work into restoration, and to Moonlite Welding, a few doors down.

The Las Vegas City Council recently approved a resolution allowing Castañeda patrons to use the parking lot at the historic Amtrak station next door. A federal funding mechanism also ensured Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line will continue to run through the station.

“This district alone could become a huge draw to Las Vegas,” said Affeldt, who serves on the City of Las Vegas’ Lodgers Tax Advisory Board. “It hasn’t been marketed very well. When your hotel’s been closed since 1948, there’s not only the remodeling. There’s getting the word out.”

The project manager, Carlos Lopez, is a local man who’s been involved with several historic buildings in town. He takes pride in tackling challenges such as the 22 rooms that will be on the second floor.

“Why would I do this? To help preserve an important part of the community,” Lopez said. “The Harvey House legacy is not only part of our past, but also part of Las Vegas’ future.”

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