After more than six decades in business as Garrett’s Desert Inn, the downtown motel on Old Santa Fe Trail will be renamed El Sendero Hotel & Suites under new operators who are overhauling the state-owned property.
The Desert Inn name has been in place since the 83-room motel opened in October 1957 and has remained largely unchanged.
Operations group 311 Old Santa Fe Trail LLC was awarded a 20-year lease from the New Mexico State Land Office, headquartered across the street, in June 2018 to run the motel, which the state has owned since 2016, following a swap with Cochiti Pueblo for 9,400 acres near Cochiti considered sacred to the tribe.
The partnership took over the motel in September and has been working to revamp the property — possibly for the first time. Research into whether major renovation work was done previously proved inconclusive, said Barbara Salas, a partner with 311 Old Santa Fe Trail.
“It could be that it has not been remodeled,” said Salas, a former Santa Fe fire chief.
She did not disclose the overall costs for renovations.
Bathtubs in all the Desert Inn rooms, likely dating back to 1957, were removed and replaced with walk-in, low-flow showers. New low-flow toilets and sinks also were installed.
The rooms are being further renovated in phases while the hotel remains partially open with 45 rooms available, Salas said. Renovations of the first 30 rooms, which started in April, include new carpet, tile and paint, and only await the mid-August arrival of furniture and beds, she said, adding the second set of eight rooms was gutted in early July.
The partnership hopes to have the first set of remodeled rooms opened in September, the second set of eight rooms completed in October and the entire hotel remodeled and ready for guests in November.
The restaurant space, lobby and adjacent conference room, which is now the The Map Room lounge, have been remodeled as well. Jimmy D’s Diner opened May 10 in the restaurant space previously occupied by Santa Fe Bite.
And construction started July 29 on a new covered entrance. The old 12-foot-high porte-cochère was too low to fit emergency vehicles, Salas said.
Once 50 rooms are ready for guests and pass inspection, Garrett’s will be renamed El Sendero.
The operations partnership is bringing in Ascend Hotel Collection, a boutique brand established in 2008 by Choice Hotels with 159 locations in the U.S. and 92 in other nations. El Sendero will be the first Ascend property in New Mexico.
“Membership in the Ascend Hotel Collection enables independent hotel owners to maintain their local identity and operational independence,” Choice Hotels says on its website.
After Ascend moves in, the downtown motel will have access to Choice Hotels’ global reservation system, revenue management and rewards program. The 311 Old Santa Fe Trail partnership operates three other Choice Hotels in Santa Fe: Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites and Econo Lodge Inn & Suites.
The renovations at the downtown motel have gone slower than expected. Salas said the project faced delays with a swimming pool leak, corroded plumbing, installation of a new tankless gas water heater system and replacement of the roof, which was damaged in recent windstorms.