the el vado motel, in happier times (2001), as portrayed by ken rockwell
we've been home just a few days from the trip from hell, and we all kinda hit the ground running--gus had a sleepover birthday party then school started back up (and he is the weatherman of the day today!), sophie is busy growing teeth and an attitude, and i came back to continue an uphill struggle (with many others) to save albuquerque's el vado motel.
a "developer," richard l. gonzales, purchased the el vado motel a couple of years ago for about $680,000. his intention was to knock it down and build what he calls luxury townhomes. there are many problems with this:
1. the el vado motel is listed on the national register of historic places (since 1993);
2. the el vado motel is the best example of pueblo revival architecture in a motor court setting--a style that is specific to not just new mexico but northern new mexico and albuquerque pre-WWII;
3. the el vado motel has no structural or engineering problems;
4. the el vado motel is not zoned for townhouses;
5. the el vado motel is a city icon that is beloved by albuquerqueans and route 66 enthusiasts alike;
6. mr. gonzales is not a responsible, informed, concientious or desirable developer, as evidenced by his involvement in the shameful sale of the atrisco land grant (see this for more info);
7. without sounding religious, there is a moral imperative to maintain a sense of place and history when possible that supercedes an individual's short-term wishes;
8. the el vado motel was not in a blighted state before mr. gonzales purchased it--it was a fully operational motel that was above water financially--and gonzales closed it and shuttered it.
9. mr. gonzales is asking an appalling $2.2 million for this property that he has ruined and that has been most recently appraised at just over $300,000.
10. mr. gonzales should not be rewarded for blighting his own property and thereby force the city to approve demolition...and too many other things to keep listing them here....
so, once we got back from houston i was armed with all kinds of good info from my dad about how to argue against land development and my own research about the historical/architectural importance of the el vado. the city council held a meeting last night to decide whether or not to designate it a city landmark, which would delay mr. gonzales' plan to raze the site for at least another 60 days until a hearing could be held to determine appropriateness for demolition. i prepared a spiel to give to the city council and, to my and everyone's surprise, at the 11th hour the city council allowed no public comments on the el vado situation. there were several of us there prepared to speak but no one was heard.
but, after a grueling, two plus hour slogfest between the city attorney and richard gonzales' attorney, the city council voted to designate the el vado motel a city of albuquerque landmark. i sat through the entire thing in amazement--five of the nine city councilors voted to landmark it (isaac benton, michael cadigan, sally mayer, rey garduño and ron harris) and four didn't (debbie o'malley, trudy jones, ken sanchez and brad winter). and their decision-making processes were as varied as an informed professional considering the elements (cadigan, benton), to someone who genuinely cared about place (garduño), to someone with future political concerns thinking this might hurt their chance at someday being mayor (winter, maybe o'malley)... there will be another hearing soon to determine the demolition certification, which will now be made more difficult with the landmark designation.
there is a lot of info on the web, some of which has been penned by me, if anyone is interested:
duke city fix, "that was a close one"
duke city fix, "speak out for preservation"
duke city fix, "don't let albuquerque lose this"
albuquerque tribune, "albuquerque designates motel city landmark..."
the national trust's reportage on the el vado
new york times article with a favorable review of the el vado from 2003
let's hope things improve over the next couple of months and that the city and the owner can reach a reasonable agreement.