Route 66 News

It’s demolition, not salvation

This report from KOB-TV about the demolition of the abandoned State Fair Mercado Motel on Central Avenue (aka Route 66) in Albuquerque irked me a bit.

Listen, I understand that Route 66 tourism remains a cottage industry, and that only so many vintage motels can operate in the Duke City.

I also realize that a few of those old Central Avenue motels have to come down. If these structures deteriorate to a certain, inexorable point, you raze them and hope a vibrant business replaces it. I want vintage motels to be preserved, but I also have to be pragmatic about the issue.

But the mayor and local media should realize that tearing down one of those old motels also is a loss. The Mercado wasn’t just an “eyesore.” It served as a window of Albuquerque’s past, and to the city’s Route 66 culture.

The city should forge an equal, two-tiered strategy of new development and preservation of historic structures. Revitalization doesn’t always have to come in the wake of a bulldozer. In fact, you could make a strong argument that using historic structures would lead to stronger and more-distinctive revitalization.

9 thoughts on “It’s demolition, not salvation

  1. Trevor Hilton

    Seems that mayor doesn’t realize that tourists don’t want to see strip malls.
    Bet that mayor would “improve” and “revitalize” Philedelphia by destroying Independence Hall.

  2. RT

    There is no revitalization involved, when the city has never even attempted to address the real problem, which was never on Central Ave. There’s also a difference between revitalization and complete replacement all together. These motels are a part of history, and now maybe we know the real purpose behind saving the El Vado – knock all the rest down, and it will be the last one standing? The problem with that side of town, has always been, and still remains, the residential neighborhoods just one block North and South of Central on the East end of town (which is where again, another motel has been destroyed), commonly known for years locally, as the “War Zone”. These neighborhoods have been so bad in the past, that there are concrete barracades in the area, still today, blocking them off from the rest of the public.

    You cannot rebuild a community by demolishing its past, no matter how unpleasant that past might be. You have to both tackle the underlying issue of the criminal elements of those neighborhoods, and then involve the local community on Central to renovate their businesses, provide safe, quality lodgings, that no longer harbour the local street elements, and have the City involved in helping with streetscaping, signage, facelifts or otherwise. Nob Hill learned these lessons long ago, although they are greatly in need of an old motel, they no longer have.

    Simply putting a new Walgreens up, will neither change the face of that community, nor remove the elements that will still exist and frequent those streets. You will only temporarily transfer the very same problems from end of the boulevard to the other, until they come around again, because you never addressed the real issues…

  3. Sean

    I am sorry to hear about this. See, as a family we stayed there all through the 1960’s when we traveled to Arizona on 66. Usually the back part of the motel parellel to Central, upper right corner. Truth be told it was losing its class by ’69 (the pool was green), but the memories of stolling across Central to Old Town and the dirt streets there with all the native crafts and western kitsch was pretty powerful stuff for a youngster from NY. I will be in Duke City next week. I HAD hoped to walk down to the motel, and see visit it…..

    Meanwhile though, Ron is very right. Albuquerque has many classic motels and we can’t save them all, but it would sure be nice to be able to select them before the demolition occurs.

  4. RT

    Sorry, but HAD many, now only several, and if someone doesn’t start the selecting, soon to be handful! This process started a few years back, and they’ve made quite some progress in demolition since then.

    Wildwood NJ in a Route 66 kind of way, comes to mind, as to what kind of potential could have been for the East side, but alas its not to be.

    So sorry to see your childhood experiences vanish into dust, never to be shared in person again – it’s just plain sad…

  5. Jane

    We are lucky that our Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, MO has been revitalized and has made our town more interesting and authentic to travelers. It fits in well with our other attractions. It took time and money for the new owner (2009) to revitalize it, but what an asset for us and Route 66.

  6. RT

    That’s too easy a bet! How about a bet on which chain? Although it may not be, my odds would be on Walgreens, who has a great reputation for taking whatever history they can get their hands on, all across Route 66 and destroying it.

    Carthage, MO – the Boots Motel (thankfully saved for now), Monrovia, CA – the Aztec Hotel (still threatened), where’s your next target Walgreens…

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