Aztec Motel being torn down

The historic Aztec Motel along Central Avenue (aka Route 66) in Albuquerque is being torn down, although its restored neon sign will remain indefinitely, said the property’s co-owner.

The tear-down started just a few days ago, judging by posts on the Duke City Fix, a collective blog based in Albuquerque. One of the blog’s contributors also reported the motel being “yellow-tagged” by the city on April 1 as unsafe for occupation.

The motel, originally called Aztec Auto Court, was built in 1933, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. In 2003, the motel earned a cost-share grant from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program to restore its neon sign. The Aztec also was listed as a registered historic place by the City of Albuquerque, but that designation gave it little protection.

Matthew Terry, co-owner of Nob Hill Development Corp., which owned the Aztec, said during a phone interview that the motel had “outlived its useful life” and was so dilapidated that no good alternative use could be found for it. He said the motel had been closed to guests for months, and vagrants were breaking into the rooms.

Terry said he and his partner are “exploring all options” for the property. He said the restored neon sign would remain for the time being, and likely would be adapted for re-use in any redevelopment project.

Longtime Aztec Motel residents started decorating the motel with plastic flowers, paintings, and other items during the 1990s, making the building a sort of an Albuquerque art landmark and one of the most photographed on the Web. Terry said some items were saved from the motel, but that souvenir-hunters stripped much of the building in the days before the razing.

It should be noted that Terry’s group has been dedicated in preserving other historic Route 66 properties in Albuquerque. It re-adapted the Nob Hill Motel into an office complex and is remodeling the Premiere Motel into extended-stay lodging, despite a setback from a fire.

UPDATE 6/10/2011: This report by KRQE-TV indicates how grim the motel’s condition was:

The Aztec’s owner, Jerry Landgraf, said it would have cost $1 million to restore it to its glory.

“Everything just kept falling apart to the point where we were spending more trying to maintain it than we were getting any kind of income out of it,” said Landgraf.

Soon after he bought the building five years ago, Landgraf realized it couldn’t be saved.

“There were floor joists sitting on sewer pipes underneath the foundation to the extent there was a foundation,” he said.

6/16/2011 UPDATE: Here’s a sort of obituary today from Albuquerque Journal columnist Leslie Linthicum.

(Photo courtesy of Rick Martin)

6 thoughts on “Aztec Motel being torn down

  1. Very sad to hear this news. Glad I made several photo trips to the motel–many photo ops were available there. Truly an icon of the Mother Road.

  2. This well and truly sucks. Sad to see the old gal go. Will raise a toast in Amarillo! Like John, glad I have a few pics.

  3. While yes, you can give them a “little itty bitty” credit for some restoration, which I debateably wouldn’t, Albuquerque still continues the trend of destroying their Route 66 gems, and that is truly sad.

    Repurposing is not restoration, and it’s result is a loss of history. Nob Hill is a trendy area as you know, but trendy doesn’t always mean smart. Obviously they can’t figure out there’s also a market for a cool, trendy old Route 66 motel too, where trendy people could stay right in Nob Hill, not to mention some university business as well? And I mean an upscale nightly motel, not weeklys and monthlys that continue to put those motels on a path towards destruction.

    The other challenge that remains there, is pretty much everything east of Nob Hill is in or very near the ghetto or “war zone” as locals call it there. If they could somehow ever connect the east side of Central with the rest, then possibly some of those cool old motels could be saved? Until then, I’m afraid they’ll just keep shutting them down and raising them…

    1. RT, I do not fault anyone for adapting for reuse an old motel, especially in a market such as Albuquerque where there are more than two dozen such motels along the Route 66 corridor. The market for such motels is only so large.

      The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program advocates adapting such motels for reuse if keeping it as a functioning motel is not reasonably feasible. I concur with this stance.

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