City looking for proposals for site of El Vado Motel

Created: 04/03/2014 6:25 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

It’s been closed for the last nine years, but Albuquerque’s historic El Vado Motel is suddenly getting a lot of attention.

It was built back in 1936. The Dust Bowl was churning, Hoover Dam was  just getting finished, and thousands were dying in a Midwest heat wave. The El Vado opened on old Route 66, just a stone’s throw from the east bank of the Rio Grande.

“Swanky tile cabin suites ready for the summer trade,” is how one newspaper put it. After nine years of vacancy the swank is kind of hard to see, but the adobe is still solid, the roof is good, the pueblo-style artwork is very cool but fading. The city, which owns the property, has put out a request for proposals on how to develop the property, which includes the old casa Grande restaurant next door and a onetime barbershop. Retail? Hotel? Art galleries? At this point anything goes.

“The sky is the limit,” said Rebecca Velarde of the city Planning Department. “We encourage all ideas, all proposals. We’re very excited about this property. We think the community is very excited about this property. We’re just really looking for ideas.”

The interiors are still good, especially the latillas and vigas in the ceilings. Okay, the bathrooms are tiny and need work.  Outside we found Ed Arthur and his son taking photographs of the motel. They’re working on a Route 66 project. Ed has his own ideas for development.

“A casino!” Ed laughed. “Return on investment! No, I really don’t know. I think it would be a good boutique hotel, a boutique motel.”

The El Vado is right across Central Ave. from the ABQ BioPark Aquarium. It’s next door to Old Town, close to Downtown – ready for the future. One hitch. It’s on the National Registry of Historic Places. That means developers will be limited in making major changes to the structure.  But that’s what kept the wrecking ball away when it closed back in 2005.

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