The two-story Central Hotel is an eyesore on Belen’s historic Becker Avenue. The roof is caving in, windows are boarded up and the brick and cement are cracking to pieces.
What was once an historic hotel has been abandoned for years. But now Tom Greer, a local developer and investor, wants to buy it and turn it into a vibrant bed and breakfast.
“Without historic lodging or without that kind of draw in the historic area we get what I call drive-by tourism,'” Greer said. “They eat at McDonald’s, they fill up their tank, and they go on down the road because they don’t have a place to stay.”
He said people don’t stay long enough in Belen to allow themselves to discover gems like Pete’s Cafe or the Belen Art Gallery.
Just across the street from the Central Hotel is an example of his vision. Artists Judy Chicago and her husband Donald Woodman renovated the Belen Hotel, which is very similar in size to the Central Hotel, although Chicago and Woodman use their hotel as a private residence.
Several weeks ago, when MainStreet officials visited Becker Avenue, which is a part of the city’s proposed MainStreet district. The head of the program, Rich Williams, lamented the decay of the Central Hotel as “demolition by neglect.”
Williams and other officials say Belen doesn’t have much time to save it. While the owners of the hotel want a couple hundred thousand dollars for the structure, the cost to renovate it would be substantial. Greer said he will seek investors.
He is hoping, in time, he’ll have purchased the hotel and begun to restore it.
“It’s one of the few buildings that’s in the actual overlap of the quarter-mile circle for the Rail Runner and the historic district plan,” said Greer. “It’s an integral part of what we need to do. It’s an uphill battle in this economy, but it’s something we’re working on.”