NOB HILL--The City has reassumed control of the De Anza. The private developers who had been trying to get something started for the last five years or so have ceased to be involved with the property.
It was about five years ago that the City of Albuquerque bought the historic De Anza Motor Lodge on Central Ave. Everybody cheered. "We saved this one!"
we thought...and we eagerly looked forward to the day when the old motel came back to life in one form or another.
Five Years of Nada
But nothing happened. The city government entered into a contract with Gerald Landgraf and Matthew Terry of DeAnza L.L.C. to develop the property. But things got complicated. No agreement between all the parties could be reached. To illustrate how complicated it was, Zuni Pueblo and the National Park Service were involved, and even the murals in the basement had their own lawyers, two of them.
At any rate, DeAnza L.L.C. is no longer in the picture. The contract has been terminated. I know that Landgraf has had a full plate of projects on east Central already. He redid the Nob Hill Motel, re-habbed another building which now houses the Rte. 66 Malt Shop, and brought in the media arts charter school to another of his properties. All told I think he owns about five square blocks of real estate east of Carlisle along Central Avenue. Most of his properties
are of the high-maintenance variety--old motels badly in need of a new life.
The Treasure Hunt
The city is putting out a new Request For Proposals, just like it did five years ago. They are also applying for grant money from the federal Department of Transportation. This is a matching grant with the Feds picking up 75% of the costs of re-habbing the property. The city would have to kick in 25%. Why the DOT? I think it has to do with its importance to old Route 66, and maybe turning it into a museum.
I was told that this is money that would not be around forever, and at this point the responsibility fell to the city. It was something of a "use it or lose it" situation. So far the grant has not been approved.
The Historical Angle and the Murals
In 1939 C.G. Wallace, a Zuni trader, and S.D. Hambaugh, a tourist court operator from Tucson opened the De Anza on Route 66 in Albuquerque. It started out with puebloesque features such as protruding vigas and ended up much later with sandstone columns supporting a shaded entrance to the office.
Wallace eventually bought out Hambaugh. Wallace had come to New Mexico in 1919 and immersed himself in Zuni culture for much of his life. He became an important person in the Zuni jewelry business both on and off the reservation. His dedication to promoting Zuni culture
is reflected in those most remarkable art pieces covering the basement conference room walls of the Motor Lodge: the 20 foot long murals depicting Zuni Pueblo's winter Shalako procession by Zuni artist Tony Edaakie.
An excellent history
of the motel and operator Wallace's involvement with the Zunis is available on the National Park Service website. By the way, the NPS is part of DeAnza's future because the motor lodge is on the historical registry. A discussion of the development issues and related topics
can be had on this DCF Friends of De Anza Motor Hotel discussion from two years ago. It also shows the extent to which rumors abound concerning the development of the property. Speaking of that...
The Rumored Future
Here is what I'm hearing on the street:
• A possible Route 66 Museum including a neon sign collection
• A possible restoration to actual motel status by another developer
• A possible combination Route 66 Visitors' Center and various shops
But rumors surrounding this property have been so plentiful over the years, I wouldn't bet on any of them. Whatever the future brings, here's hoping the path to a New Life for the De Anza is clear and doable. The citizens of Albuquerque have truly been patient for a long, long time.