Aztec hotel finds new life as apartment building catering to unique market
Owner Tweeti Blancett says building offers convenience, security, community
- The Step Back Inn Apartments, 123 W. Azec Blvd., will feature 17 units.
- Each apartment consists of a living room, bedroom, bathroom and small kitchen.
- Blancett said she spent $10,000 a room remodeling the building.
AZTEC — Longtime Aztec innkeeper Tweeti Blancett may have gotten out of the hotel business, but that doesn't mean she's done with providing shelter for people
Blancett has remodeled her Step Back Inn into an apartment building, one that caters exclusively to single women age 60 or older. She plans on opening the doors of her latest venture as soon as she passes her final San Juan County inspection, which she believes will be any day now.
The Step Back Inn Apartments, 123 W. Azec Blvd., will feature 17 units, each of them consisting of a living room, bedroom, bathroom and small kitchen. The building also offers The Parlor, a large community room that can be used for dining or group activities; a large, fully outfitted commercial kitchen that residents can turn over to a caterer or use themselves to prepare large meals for several guests; laundry facilities; and five rentable, furnished rooms upstairs for those who have overnight guests.
Blancett, a former state lawmaker who traces her family history in Aztec back several generations, knows she's catering to a relatively small market. But she believes there are more than enough women out there looking for exactly the kind of living situation her building will offer.
"You have to make up your mind that you're downsizing," she said, describing the kind of renter she has in mind. "If you're looking for a three- or four-bedroom house, this is not for you."
Instead, the Step Back Inn Apartments are designed to appeal to older women who are no longer married but don't want to live with their children. Blancett believes there are plenty of women of that description who also don't want to be responsible for doing a lot of cleaning and maintenance on a house or yard, especially if they have the means to do a lot of traveling.
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Blancett said her apartments will provide them with a small, cozy, secure and convenient place to live. It also will offer them easy access to several neighbors with whom they will have a great deal in common, providing an almost instant sense of community, she said.
"If you want to sit in The Parlor and be part of a quilting group, a prayer group or a group of people studying genealogy, there'll be someone sitting in there with you with a similar life interest," Blancett said.
The building will allow women of that age group to be around others who share many of their experiences and perspectives. That's not something some older folks can get even from their families, she said.
"The difference is, we don't mind listening to stories about our early days, and the kids do," Blancett said.
The Step Back Inn Apartments will offer other amenities, as well. Blancett keeps a large, well-maintained patio surrounded by flowers that she envisions will be a popular gathering spot for residents.
Each unit will be thoroughly cleaned by the staff once a month. And a weekday shuttle service will run from the building to the Aztec Senior Center for lunch for those who want to get out, while arrangements for lunch deliveries can be made for those who prefer to remain at home.
That's not to say the building's staff will play mother hen to the residents. Blancett is adamant about that.
"They must be physically, mentally and financially independent to live here," she said of residents. "This is not assisted living in any fashion. If you're not feeling well, we'll be helping you out. Other than that, we'll be leaving you alone."
Converting her hotel into an apartment building was not Blancett's first choice when she closed the Step Back Inn last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She first explored the idea of selling the building to the Mosaic Academy in Aztec, but when that idea proved unfeasible, she came up with this notion.
And now she's happy that things turned out the way they did.
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"I was very pleased about the school idea, because my husband and I hard both taught," she said. "But I like this idea real well, too."
Blancett is confident the apartment building will be a success. She said she hasn't marketed it anywhere but her personal Facebook page, and yet she already has been approached by several potential renters. She expects to open the building with 10 of the units leased, and she doesn't think it will be long before the other seven are claimed.
"I do anticipate being full," she said.
Blancett said she spent $10,000 a unit remodeling the building, mostly by adding a kitchen to each apartment. But the renovation required no new windows or modification of load-bearing walls. She opened the Step Back Inn as a new building in 1995, and she proudly maintains she oversaw every aspect of its construction and stands by the quality of that work.
There are 10 upstairs apartments and seven downstairs units. Upstairs units will rent for $1,750 a month unfurnished and $2,250 furnished, while the downstairs apartments will go for $2,000 unfurnished and $2,500 furnished. Those prices include utilities, cable, Internet and local phone service — all holdovers from the building's days as a hotel.
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Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Support local journalism with a digital subscription.