Phantom Lodge

Bishop's Lodge Resort renovation is behind schedule and bills have piled up

"Bishop's Lodge, the iconic 1920s resort situated on 317 acres in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains is being reenvisioned as one of the top resorts in the nation—respecting the property's rich history and original design while incorporating state-of-the-art luxury features throughout its accommodations, grounds and amenities," reads a description on the Bishop's Lodge Resort's website. Above the words rotates a deck of glossy interior photos and artist renderings of happy visitors milling around the lodge and pictures of horses nibbling on grass in pristine stables.

Atlanta, Georgia-based HRV Hotel Partners bought the property in 2014 and closed the lodge the next year. The new owners first promised a high-class resort that evoked the spirit of the Wild West that would reopen the summer of 2018, the year of its 100th anniversary.

What exists now is more reminiscent of a ghost town.

The project sat idle from 2015 until construction began in 2017. Since then, though, developers have made little progress, and county records show they're behind on payments and taxes.

Of the construction permits issued by Santa Fe County for the project in 2017 and 2018, developers reportedly only began construction are the interior area of the main lodge, a spa, an entryway monument and three luxury guesthouses, according to records provided by Santa Fe County.

Construction enabled by 12 other permits—renovation of the various structures' foundations, guest villas and bunkhouses, stables and the ballroom—has yet to begin. Meanwhile, all of the buildings, including Lamy's Chapel, which appears on the National Register of Historic Places, lay exposed to the harsh New Mexico elements.

On paper, it's a black hole.

Creditors including the IRS began to file liens against HRV Hotels in 2018, mounting to more than $3.6 million. While records show it's repaid about $500,000 on those claims, the company that HRV Hotels set up for the property, BL Santa Fe LLC, has also failed to pay its property taxes. The county treasurer reports $132,495.98 unpaid for the second half of 2017 and all of 2018.

Neighbors who skirt the property or traipse through its footpaths can spot unsecured doors that open and close with the wind that blows through skeletal frames of once-proud structures. Some windows are boarded up, while others are nothing but holes as incomplete renovations lay bare interiors. The entrance to Lamy Chapel sits open.

The historic chapel was established by Bishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy in the 19th century. The rest of the expansive facility has been around since the 1920s, according to a bulletin published by the Santa Fe Historical Society in 1987. Lamy built the chapel on a property north of the city that he bought for $80 as a personal retreat in 1869, the same time period that the Catholic bishop oversaw the construction of what became the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

SFR showed pictures of the chapel as it stands today to Mac Watson, chair of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation and a frequent visitor of the chapel before the site was closed for renovation.

"The roof shingles are in terrible shape, and given the amount of rain and snow we've had this year, it is hard to think that a great deal of water has not gone through the roof and inflicted damage to the interior," Watson tells SFR.

"If the building were in the City of Santa Fe, it would be subject to a city ordinance against 'demolition-by-neglect.' As the property is outside the city limits, only the owner's sense of responsibility can bring about the needed repairs," Watson says.

A sign facing Bishops Lodge Road still proclaims that the resort will open this year, and bears the names of contractors who say they are no longer affiliated with the project.

Heidi Hanna, president of Hill Strategic Brand Solutions, which represents HRV, tells SFR the company is planning to start the first round of construction in 2019 in two weeks, and she maintains the scheduled re-opening will take place in summer of next year. She says the company is working on a settlement agreement to discharge all the liens "in the next week."

The original general contractor, Bradbury Stamm, left the project in April of 2018, according to a report compiled by the US Environmental Protection Agency.  Lawrence Peterson, executive vice president at the firm, tells SFR he can't comment on the reason.

At least one local contractor, Santa Fe Door Store Inc., filed a money owed suit in Santa Fe District Court against Bradbury Stamm and HRV Hotels last July. The door company, along with other parties, has an outstanding claim on lien worth $32,929.21. Bradbury's own lien against HRV claims nearly $3.1 million owned. 

The EPA's 2018 report dinged the project for failing to create buffers around the Little Tesuque Creek, which flows through the resort and empties into the Rio Grande. The developers also failed to obtain a construction general permit from the EPA, a permit required for any site that impacts stormwater paths. Hanna tells SFR that the issue stemmed from heavy rains in July of 2018, and the property has since been brought back into compliance.

HRV Hotels has resorts in Cabo San Lucas and Punta Mita, Mexico, and Key West, Florida, and owns hotels in Charleston, South Carolina; Chicago; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Gainsville, Florida, as well as 10 Hilton Garden Inns across the US.

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