IHOP work begins at Taos site

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The Taos IHOP appears to be moving closer to opening day, with crews clearing the debris and weeds from the area around the building on Paseo del Pueblo Sur.

Buzz began in Taos in September when a banner announcing the pending arrival of an IHOP restaurant was hung outside the vacant former Applebee's property on Paseo del Pueblo Sur. The building has been vacant for more than three years and various bouts of vandalism have turned the location into a constant stop for police on their shift routes.

Taos Hanuman Restaurant LLC began filing paperwork with the town to occupy the building and plans to open the IHOP by March 1.

"It's a simple renovation," said Jim Pollard of JJP Construction. "The restaurant is in really good shape and we had all the equipment tested before they bought the restaurant. It's simply a conversion from the Applebee's standards to IHOP."

JJP Construction is the general contractor getting the location ready for the new owners to move in. Interior and minor exterior work will bring the building to IHOP standards. Graffiti removal, stucco restoration and landscaping cleaning are the first steps of the work that will be done on the property. According to Pollard, all subcontractors working on the project at the moment have come from within the Taos area.

IHOP has been the center of controversy on several social media posts, including a Sept. 15 Taos News Facebook post, which generated more than 60 comments and replies. Many in the Taos area feel the restaurant is not the answer that Taos needs for the future, yet many remain optimistic about the business and are looking forward to the doors opening.

"From a person that was born and raised in Taos, stop trying to keep out people from bringing in businesses," said Suelo Ruiz on a Taos News Facebook post. "It's a shame that so many of us Taoseños have to leave [because] you block the jobs from coming to Taos. I would love to move back, but the honest truth is there is no jobs. If you don't like IHOP or Starbucks don't go, but please for the sake of our people stop blocking opportunity and shops."

Those in opposition to the IHOP have also been vocal both in the community and on social media, claiming that the business will be taking away from the "creativity" and local businesses of Taos. UFICommentActorAndBody{"tn":"K"}UFICommentBody

"Yuck. Why?" asked Theresa Brochtrup Carey on Facebook. "Taos is so unique and special, makes no sense to corporatize and gentrify it."

Meanwhile, interim Taos Police Department Chief David Trujillo said his department is optimistic about the new business opening and said filling empty storefronts in Taos is crucial to reducing some of the crime in the area. In the past, the property has been the subject of several police calls, including for vandalism and vagrancy. Business owners in the area have said problems with the area increased when Applebee's shut its doors. To the police, having the lights on in the property could deter some of the crime and vagrancy as, according to Trujillo, the incidents in the area became less common when Mondo Italiano moved into the location across the parking lot.

"Having nobody in a building becomes a huge problem because there is no one to report activity," Trujillo said. "We're very happy about IHOP because it gives that property a caretaker."

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