On Jan. 7, the Albuquerque City Council will decide whether to preserve a nearly 70-year-old part of its Route 66 heritage, or let a local developer tear it down to make way for luxury townhouses.
I'm talking about El Vado Motel, on Central Avenue near the Rio Grande. It boasts unique Southwestern architecture, carports to park your ride, and a way-cool neon sign. It's one of the most recognized landmarks of old Route 66, and of Albuquerque.
Trouble is, you can't check into El Vado. Shortly after purchasing it, Richard L. Gonzales stated he wanted to tear down the motel. The city stepped in and said "not so fast." But in the meantime, the motel has been shuttered for more than two years and surrounded by a chain-link fence.
If you want to preserve El Vado, you can go to the city council meeting at 5 p.m. Jan. 7 and urge the councilors to designate the motel as a city landmark, thus protecting it from the bulldozers. Or you can e-mail the councilors here.
There's been talk of a buyout, which will be even more likely if the city council gives El Vado the protection of a city landmark designation. And at least one individual at a recent Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission meeting expressed interest in buying it and reopening it as a motel.
However, I'm willing to concede El Vado may not reopen as a Route 66 lodging establishment. To that end, I'm not against adaptive reuse as long as its historical character is maintained. Mayor Marty Chavez has suggested a neon museum. I've heard a few people recommend a Route 66 museum. And I'm aware of at least one Route 66 motel, Cactus Court in Santa Fe, that was converted into a retail complex.
Any other ideas? The more options the property has, the better its chances that it can be preserved.
(Photo courtesy of The Lope.)