While it may not look like anything is happening at the former Hilltop House these days, a spokesman for Atomic City Investments who bought the property in July 2015 said Tuesday that there is lots going on behind the scene.
The property at 400 Trinity Dr., which has been renamed Atomic City Hotel, went into foreclosure in the fall of 2012. During a public auction in March 2013, LANB entered a cash bid of $2.9 million and successfully gained ownership of the hotel and adjacent gas station and convenience store which were all then purchased by Atomic City Investors.
Kuzi Mutsiwegota said the company still plans to reopen the property but progress has been slowed down by the increased budget, which will be required to bring it up to code. Design engineers for ACI have been working on plans for review by county officials.
“We remain very committed to reopening the Atomic City Hotel, as well as the gas station and convenience store and plan to add conference facilities and more,” Mutsiwegota said. “I was in Los Alamos two weeks ago and I am always amazed by what a great location of the property. The town and surrounding area are so beautiful and the views from the upstairs windows at the hotel are spectacular.”
County officials have met with company representatives several times over the past two years to discuss health and safety issues for the property. Building Safety Manager Michael Arellano said Tuesday that the buildings will need to be readdressed at this point because new concerns are visible from the exterior such as leaking and roof issues.
Retired building safety manager Chris Williams says the hotel was so “out of code” when it was previously occupied “it was a danger.” Lack of a fire safety system was the principal concern and walls between the east side and west side rooms needed to be fortified as there was nothing to stop the spread of fire from one side to the other.
“The Fire Marshals’ Office ordered a firewatch program to be implemented 24 hours a day requiring an employee to physically walk the property every 20 minutes until a fire suppression system was installed,” Williams said.
When it appeared that the system was not going to be installed, the building was shut down. Williams said a comprehensive list of concerns has been discussed with Atomic City Investments including the need to remove the windows in the enclosed hallways, replace the elevator, install panic hardware on the doors, and extensive work on the stairs. He also noted that the conference room floor was “spongey” and that the restaurant area had limited occupancy capacity prior to closure due to issues with the strength of the floor.
“When we met with company officials, we discussed the basic requirements necessary for public health and safety. We certainly weren’t hoping to achieve any pinnacle of luxury,” Williams said. “Discussions between the county and ACI to allow a partial reopening have been multiple, entertaining various iterations all of which would require installation of a fire suppression system.”
Los Alamos County Community Development Director Paul Andrus says the County has an interest in working with ACI to get the property reopened.
“Having the hotel rooms and conference facilities reopened would really invigorate that area of town,” Andrus said.