- Associated Press - Saturday, April 19, 2014

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) - It has stood forlorn and mostly empty alongside the railroad tracks in Las Vegas for decades - a throwback to when train travel opened up Southwest tourism and visitors needed places to rejuvenate mind and body, and fill their stomachs.

The Castaneda Hotel, done in Mission Revival style as the first gem of the Harvey House chain, is ready for a makeover and there’s a new sheriff in town aiming to do just that.

Allan Affeldt propped the hotel door open with a case of bottled water on April 8, the day after his deal to buy the Castaneda closed. The curious popped their heads in to see what many had never seen before and to wish him well.

“Oh, look at this space, it’s beautiful,” Affeldt said, standing in the massive dining room with its pressed tin ceiling. “It’s not like one of those cookie-cutter things.

“This building is unique to New Mexico and Las Vegas, New Mexico, and it’s beautiful.”

“Welcome to Las Vegas,” local Terry Mossman told Affeldt as they shook hands. Likely speaking for many in Las Vegas, Mossman added: “I hope all your plans come true.”

Joel Scheinberg wandered across Railroad Avenue for a look and called Affeldt’s plans to redo the old hotel “the best thing to happen to Las Vegas.”

Affeldt had been feted that same day by the local Rotary Club for his purchase of the horseshoe-shaped hotel built in 1898. He will try to repeat in Las Vegas what he did in the 1990s when he and his wife helped save the then-decrepit La Posada hotel in Winslow, Ariz. That was another of the Harvey House gems that dotted New Mexico, Arizona and California to serve train travelers. In New Mexico, in addition to La Castaneda, they included La Fonda in Santa Fe and the no longer existing Alvarado in Albuquerque.

What motivates Affeldt to take on such a project?

“I’m not a normal developer,” he said.

The Rotary event apparently was a hot ticket. “They had a much bigger turnout than usual because everybody’s curious,” said Affeldt.

“I think the community sees this as maybe a tipping point event or a catalyst. It’s not that big a project - the building is 25,000 square feet and it’s going to cost a couple of million dollars - but psychologically it’s really important.”

Many locals thought the Castaneda would go the way of other derelict buildings along Railroad Avenue. Affeldt said, “From what I understand, people are thinking differently - instead of the glass being half empty, it’s half full-now.”

In Winslow, Affeldt and his artist wife Tina Mion created an art-filled hotel and the highly praised Turquoise Room restaurant. Mion will be joining her husband soon on the Las Vegas project - arriving by train, of course.

Affeldt knows the challenges that lie ahead in acquiring approvals from governmental entities that regulate historic properties. He’s trying to make the deal work by also acquiring Las Vegas‘ other historic hotel, the Plaza, with commensurate tax credits.

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