El Paso’s grand dame to be renovated as convention hotel, as a nearby boutique lodging strikes a modern chord

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The 100-year-old Camino Real Hotel is about to receive a major facelift after a $70 million sale, a year after the introduction of another hotel that owners hope will become part of the downtown landscape.

Camino-Real-hotelThe Camino Real was built in 1912 by Zach T White alongside the local architectural firm Trost and Trost, for $1.5 million at the time. Its classical architecture is what keeps tourists ringing the hotel bell. The elegance of the lobby is certain to be noticed, as are the Tiffany glass dome in its variety of blue hues, multiple glass chandeliers and polished marble floors.

“You can see a lot of the features [from 1912]in architecture back in the day,” said Paul Dillard, a visitor from Fort Worth. “The rooms are so much bigger than they are today in modern hotels since modern hotels try to get all the space they can get for more rooms.”

The newcomer to downtown’s hotel scene is the Hotel Indigo.

“[Hotel Indigo is] trending, even though it has a rustic look on the inside, it’s very up to date,” said Ruben Holguin, District Manager of Starbucks and a self-described downtown enthusiast. “It’s for a different crowd; it uses more of a local (downtown) scenery.”

Hotel Indigo, one of El Paso’s more contemporary and modern hotels, opened last year. The open space, fresh paint and the avant-garde artistry keeps El Pasoans in awe as they enter the building. The costly but alluring hotel cost more than $12 million to construct.

Eric Pearson, president and CEO of El Paso Community Foundation, said he believes that the Camino Real is unique because it is a historic landmark and anchor for the downtown area.

“All the other hotels are the same. Camino Real is special because it has that history,” Pearson said. “It has a grandeur that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.”

Despite the luxurious feel, the building shows signs of wear and tear. The ceilings need repair, the rugs sprucing and the rooms modernizing as is evident from several hotel reviews.

The transformation of the Camino Real into a convention hotel is expected to cost about $70 million total. The City of El Paso, El Paso County and the State of Texas are contributing about $34 million from state and local taxes, according to a statement released by El Paso City Council.

“This project is going to be key in our redevelopment efforts in downtown and is definitely a catalyst for our continued economic growth here in the El Paso region,” Mayor Oscar Lesser said in the statement.

Thriving hotels are essential to successful downtown renovation projects to attract convention business and tourists. In El Paso, Hotel Indigo is an example of this renaissance, from its beginning as the Downtowner Inn in the 1960s, to its last tenant as the Artisan hotel.

In an article by the El Paso Times, Miguel Diaz, Hotel Indigo’s general manager, said it is El Paso’s first boutique hotel.

“I’ve managed larger hotels. But there’s something about a boutique hotel,” Diaz said. “Managing a boutique hotel is on every hotelier’s bucket list.”

Both the Camino Real and Hotel Indigo are just two examples of how buildings with history can bring life back to downtown El Paso.

This article was produced as part of Borderzine’s Journalism in July 2016 summer workshop for high school students sponsored by the Dow Jones News Fund and the University of Texas at El Paso Department of Communication.

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