It was reported that the Desert Sands Motor Hotel on Central was finally demolish and the property cleared. (For full story see January 6, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, Business Section, “Route 66 remnant reduced to dirt lot”, page B-1)
It is always difficult to see classic Route 66 motels leveled to an empty lot, but it is inevitable when the properties are not maintained, repaired or remodeled over the years or when they are damaged beyond repair.
Classic does not make them historic.
In the case of the Desert Sands Motel, after 3 major fires, it was probably cheaper to tear it down rather than try and repair it because it was structurally unsound.
The Safe City Strike Force was able to work with the Desert Sands property owners to assume the cost of the tear down.
I suspect the final cost of the tear down and debris removal was $100,000 to $150,000 and the damage from the fires exceeded $1 million.
With a little luck, this prime piece of commercial property on Central will be redeveloped.
When it comes to historic Route 66, the Central Avenue motels played an important role in Albuquerque’s history when the automobile was the major source of transportation to travel the country, especially for vacations.
When I was Director of the Safe City Strike Force from 2002 to 2009, we took code enforcement action against 48 of the 150 motels along central and forced compliance with building codes and mandated repairs to the properties to make them habitable.
The Central motels that the Safe City Strike Force took action against include the Gaslight Motel (demolished), The Zia Motel (demolished), The Royal Inn (demolished), Route 66 (demolished), the Hacienda, Cibola Court, Super 8 (renovated by owner) , the Travel Inn (renovated by owner), Nob Hill Motel (renovated by owner), the Premier Motel (renovated by owner) the De Anza (purchased by City for historical significance), the No Name, the Canyon road (demolished), Hill Top Lodge, American Inn (demolished), the El Vado (purchased by City for historical significance), the Interstate Inn (demolished).
The Safe City Strike Force was responsible for the demolition of at least seven (7) blighted motels that were way beyond repair, that were not fit for occupancy and that had excessive calls for service to the Albuquerque Police Department.
Many of the older Central motels the Safe City Strike Force took action against were no longer motels where rooms were rented out for short term stays, but were in fact converted to monthly long term rental units, sometimes for entire families.
Of all the motels the Safe City Strike Force took action against, only two were designated as historic: the El Vado Motel and the De Anza Motel, and the city bought both the motels and redevelopment is still pending.
I believe we need to preserve as much as possible all historical aspects of old Route 66, but trying to preserve blighted motels with no true historic significance that have become magnets for crime accomplishes very little.