Is Los Alamos Approaching a Tipping Point?

The town of Los Alamos gracefully walks the line between sleepy and cool. While the restaurant scene—Bell’s, Pico, Full of Life Flatbread, Bob’s Well Bread, et al—is on par with a much larger place, it’s accompanied by vintage shops, relaxed tasting rooms, very little pedestrian traffic, and vacant lots here and there.

Now two of the holes in that winsome gap-tooth smile are on the verge of being developed, according to the August 25 agenda for the county’s North Board of Architecture Review.

A 3,139-square-foot Haven cannabis shop is proposed for the vacant lot (520 Bell Street) between Plenty and Bob’s Well Bread. NBAR only allows people to preview the plans in person in Santa Maria, but Haven has a rendering online (below) that may or may not be indicative of the final design. Let’s hope the signage ends up being subtler and more contextual; the “permeable pedestrian pathway on the adjacent parcel to the east,” however, is a welcome touch.

A block away, at the vacant lot (465 Bell Street) between the Alamo Motel and the post office, a “three-story hotel, restaurant and gourmet hall” is in the works. “The first floor will house the gourmet hall of 15,923 square feet, the second and third floors will have 28 units.” It’s called The Cottonwood (“los alamos” translates to “the cottonwoods” in English), and as the link implies, there’s already a website. The only image specific to the project is the drawing below. The architecture looks acceptable, but in this kind of endeavor, execution is everything.

The website has nothing of note about the restaurant other than it’ll serve lunch and dinner. The gourmet hall, meanwhile, will feature “a wine bar, microbrewery, casual dining, and retail.” As for the hotel component, it will be managed by Viadora, a Mexico City–based company that does not yet have any properties in the U.S. (I can’t imagine the folks at the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern will be pleased to discover a photo of their property on the page describing the Cottonwood’s hotel.) UPDATE 8/21: The image has been removed.

While it’s surprising that coffee isn’t mentioned in the gourmet hall’s lineup, the owner of the office building (315 Bell Street) directly to the west of Elder Flat Farm has filed paperwork to turn it into a café called Renegades.

If the Cottonwood sticks the landing, Los Alamos can probably absorb all three establishments without losing too much of what makes it special. The last big change coming to town, however, is a different story. A 59-unit housing development called Village Square, long in gestation on 16.7 acres on the western edge of town, is finally heading toward construction. The other projects by the developer, Legacy Homes, are decidedly generic.


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This news is alarming to some- but the tourism folks score gold while the locals try to stop a permitted housing development by hiring a biologist to say “rain make mud”. Great article!