View Tuesday from an exterior door on the back side of the former Hilltop Hotel. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
View through the front glass door. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
The area to the right of the front entrance of the former hotel. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Debris falling off the wall outside the former hotel spa. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The owners of the former Hilltop House Hotel were notified Monday by Los Alamos County Fire Marshal Chief Wendy Servey that the property needs to be secured due to current conditions that violate the fire code. County Assessor’s Office records indicate that the current owner of the property is New Mexico Innovation Triangle and the point of contact is Larry Hawker.
Servey said she had expressed her preference to Hawker that the building be immediately secured on Monday but she did not receive a response from Hawker until Thursday. She said the response said Hawker would have someone start working Thursday on securing the building. Servey said she discussed her findings Monday with County Community Development Division Director Paul Andrus, Building Inspector David Martinez and LAFD Chief Troy Hughes.
Chief Hughes said Thursday afternoon that LAFD’s operational chiefs have been briefed on the condition of the building. He noted that there were issues with the building long before the present owners purchased it and that the existing configuration of the building would cause unusually fast fire behavior.
The Los Alamos Reporter took photos from outside the hotel structure Tuesday afternoon and was shocked at the condition of the interior of the building. She was particularly alarmed when a very large squirrel ran past the doorway as she leaned in to take a photo.
The Reporter reached out to Hawker Thursday morning but did not receive a response. The NMIT web page does not have any information about the property or the limited liability corporation but lists an Albuquerque address. A Linked-In page for John F. Rizzo notes that he is the CEO and Co-Founder of NMIT, “a far reaching project tasked with creating 25,000 incremental jobs to (sic) Northern New Mexico by 2030”.
In October 2019, then Los Alamos County Council chair Sara Scott announced that the property was under contract and that the developer was planning at that point mixed use development consisting of office and retail space. In May 2020, Scott announced that the purchase was finalized with planned demolition and re-use for residential development. In recent months, especially when the County was considering the purchase of the former CB Fox and Reel Deal Theater properties, and as the nearby roundabout approached completion, people in the community began asking about the demise of the property.
The Reporter reached out to Andrus Wednesday but has received no indication of what action the County plans to take about the overall condition of the building. Andrus indicated that a site plan for the proposed development had not yet been submitted.
New Mexico state law allows the governing body of a municipality to pass a resolution that a “ruined, damaged and dilapidated” building structure or any premise “covered with ruins, rubbish, wreckage or debris” is a “menace to the public comfort, health, peace or safety” and require its removal.
Open windows and stucco falling off the building. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
An unsecured doorway at the back of the former hotel. This door was covered with plywood sometime on Thursday. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
View from an exterior door on the front side of the building. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Another entrance area to the building. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
View from outside the hotel property where the ground floor window openings are covered with chain link fencing. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com