Route 66 News

What’s happening with El Garces?

El Garces in Needles, Calif., in summer 2009.

El Garces in Needles, Calif., in summer 2009.

While in the Route 66 town of Needles, Calif., this summer, it appeared there was little recent activity in the restoration of the historic El Garces Hotel. A sign said the century-old Harvey House would have a “limited” opening by winter 2008, and the hotel’s Web site hadn’t been updated since last year.

El Garces’ project manager is Allan Affeldt, owner of the marvelously restored La Posada in Winslow, Ariz. It seemed unlikely that Affeldt would bail on the project after previously going through the arduous (and successful) rehabilitation of another Harvey House. I called him to see what was going on.

In short, Affeldt has gone through “complicated” building rehab so far and recession-related financing hurdles with El Garces. But he plans on having the hotel up and running with guest rooms, public space and a restaurant by the end of 2010.

Affeldt said he spent three years and $3 million to shore up the structure so it would meet California’s earthquake building codes. “It was vastly more complicated than we anticipated,” he said.

He said the El Garces project is “stalled” as he renegotiates the building’s financing. He said the lending crunch that began about a year ago has slowed the project, but he anticipates an answer from financiers within 30 days or so. Instead of building 50 guest rooms as envisioned, the tight lending market may force him to downsize the project to 30 rooms for the time being.

“There may not be enough money to do this all at once,” Affeldt said. “But that’s something we’ve dealt with before. When we bought La Posada 12 years ago, we opened later that year with just five rooms. The situation was similar.

“We’re very stubborn,” he added. “As along as I’m doing it, (El Garces project) will keep going. We’ll figure out a way to get this done.”

La Posada in Winslow, Ariz.

La Posada in Winslow, Ariz.

And like La Posada, Affeldt says he’ll willing to keep making improvements to El Garces indefinitely. Although La Posada has been operating for more than a decade, the hotel is opening another 14 guest rooms next month, boosting its capacity by more than a third. Affeldt also made improvements to the complex’s luscious gardens, and he next wants to work on La Posada’s vast basement.

La Posada’s occupancy rate stands at an impressive 85 percent year-round, and is nearly booked up during the spring and summer. Affeldt’s success with La Posada is why he’s confident about El Garces.

“People were saying, ‘A first-class hotel in Winslow … it’ll never happen,'” he recalled. “The location (in Needles) is actually better than Winslow.”

(Photo of La Posada courtesy of Guy Randall.)


10 thoughts on “What’s happening with El Garces?

  1. Rich

    Is there any update to the rehab progress? Was there in mid June 2010 and it still looked to be at a stand still.

    1. Norm

      President of Friends of El Garces supports steps taken to obtain new scope of work

      By JENNIFER DENEVAN , Needles Desert Star

      Monday, July 19, 2010 5:14 PM PDT

      NEEDLES – David Gunther, President of Friends of El Garces, supports actions recently taken by Needles City Council which are intended to move the project forward.

      City council took advice from Allan Affeldt, project manager for El Garces, LLC, to get a new scope of work completed and to check into tax credits, among other recommendations. Affeldt updated the city council at the July 13 meeting saying the scope of work was completed and all but the commercial areas can be finished. It would be an aggressive budget and would require an aggressive general contractor or manager but the project can move forward.

      Gunther said the El Garces project has been a less than stellar experience, namely due to how much time has gone by. There have been other complications also, such as a change of hands for the city manager position, a setback with funding and other obstacles.

      He said he’s unsure of what has caused all the delays but he wants the city to support the only group who’s shown interest in the building. Affeldt has already shown success with a similar building in Winslow, Ariz. Called La Posada, it’s another Harvey House turned motel.

      “I want to see this building survive,” Gunther said.

      He’s probably the only board member of the nonprofit group to have seen the building in use and to have stayed overnight. He stayed about three weeks in the building in the early 1960s for work.

      Gunther said he also wants local project manager Dan Lutzick and Affeldt to remain on the project because of their dedication to it. They’ve put in a lot of time and know what it can become, he said.

      Gunther spoke up at the June 8 council meeting in support of the duo. At the time the council was considering passing a resolution that would have effectively removed Affeldt and Lutzick from the project, Gunther said. It would have been unrealistic to virtually hand the project over to city staff who may not know or understand what work has already been completed on the sweeping renovation of the hotel.

      Gunther said neither he nor the Friends have a stake in Affeldt or his company.

      They do like what he’s been able to do in the past with his previous project and would like to see similar results in Needles.

  2. Ana

    I was there a few weeks ago and it still looks the same as it did in 08. It’s sad to see it unfinished.

  3. John Tork

    I had the misfortune of stopping by the appropriately named melancholy desert town of Needles, CA on March 22, 2012. Despite the dilapidated ‘El Garces’, it was still the most attractive structure in the post-apocolyptic town, which obviously isn’t saying much. The caustic smell that blankets Needles was unlike anything I had smelled before (which was compounded by the distinct smell of meth). For whatever reason, ‘Jack in the Box’ remains there.

  4. Anonymous

    The LNWRR (a garden railroad club) was there on May 12, 2012 to participate in an Open House of sorts on the property. The public was allowed access to the “El Garces” so that folks could see first hand the progress of the restoration. The two members of the LNWRR that attended and showcased some of their hobby, had a very enjoyable time.

    1. Linda

      The El Garces project is moving forward and we are looking for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in/around April 2014. It will be enclosed, have a community room, and bathrooms. It’s really beginning to look beautiful. The City plans to complete as funds are available and it will have infrastructure completed so businesses can rent and open if desired in the El Garces.

      1. Linda Kidd, Council Member-Needles

        It appears not all my post posted. As an update on the El Garces, Needles, CA. It is in the process of being fully enveloped and partial completion by April 2014. We will be having a ribbon-cutting ceremony at that time. It will house the Amtrax Station, bathrooms, and a large room that can be used. It’s looking beautiful! You can also follow pictures and updates on our Discover Needles Facebook page. Also, you can see our new Route 66 sign that was just finished in front of the El Garces.

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