Los Alamos Plaza approved to break ground

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By Carol A. Clark

Demolition equipment is poised to level the Los Alamos Inn complex next month to clear the way for a mixed-use project for which the county has just granted a building permit.

Developer Dan G. Zerfas detailed the three-phase commercial, retail and residential project during an onsite interview Tuesday.

Phase 1 takes place during the next 15 months at a cost of $15 million. It includes construction of a four-story building fronting on Trinity Drive and overlooking Ashley Pond. The structure consists of 42,000 sq. ft. of office and retail space on the lower three floors with 14 luxury penthouses on the top floor.

“We’ve got reservations on 12 of the 14 penthouse suites,” Zerfas said. “We also have 12,000 sq. ft. of commercial space under lease or sale agreements and we’re talking to a number of potential tenants. We expect a lot more interest once people understand what we’re doing.”

Phase 2 is scheduled to take place in the latter part of 2009 at the rear of the complex. It calls for a four-story building with 28,000 sq. ft. of offices on the lower two levels and 28 luxury penthouses and condominiums on the third and fourth floors. A second building is planned in phase 2, which will feature 21 townhomes overlooking the canyon and a 350-space parking garage.

“Phase 2 may be modified based on market demand to include more commercial and less residential or the reverse,” Zerfas said.

The final phase is designed similar to phase 2. It will contain 28,000 sq. ft. of office and retail space and 28 luxury penthouses and condominiums overlooking the canyon.

The entire project is estimated to cost $40 million, he said.

Zerfas explained why it has taken so long to get the project to the point it is today.

“We spent a great deal of time working with (Los Alamos National Laboratory) for approval on the site, mainly with drainage issues,” he said. “Also, the building permit took almost 10 months because the county doesn’t have a large enough department to handle jobs of this size and they contract it out. Other than the length of time to get the permit, Los Alamos County has been very supportive.”

Zerfas cleared up rumors about property in the project area being in foreclosure. “Los Alamos Plaza is well capitalized and is not affected by the Ashley Suites foreclosure,” he said.

Zerfas’ company sold what’s now known as Ashley Suites to John Smallwood of Artist Road LLC in August 2004, he said. “Based on my understanding of what’s going on, the property is in foreclosure and General Electric Capital brought in a receiver from Florida about five or six months ago to run the hotel,” Zerfas said.

GE will hold a foreclosure sale on Ashley Suites in mid September, he said, adding that TSC is considering an offer based on conversations with GE.

If no bids are accepted, GE will keep the receiver in place operating Ashley Suites, he said.

Zerfas is president of TSC Development Company, which he founded in 1981. The company develops and manages commercial, resort and hotel properties in the western United States.

In New Mexico, TSC Development built the Hotel Plaza Real in Santa Fe and participated in the development of the Kachina Hills residential project in Santa Fe and the Los Alamos Business Center here locally.