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Iconic El Vado to re-open in mid-April


Michael Wieclaw, owner of Metal the Brand, is the first retail tenant doing business at the renovated El Vado on Central Avenue (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/JOURNAL)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The owners of the El Vado are shooting for a mid-April opening of the iconic Route 66 motel.

Restoring the 1937 property has been a more complicated undertaking than originally planned with unforeseen utility- and soil-related issues that caused delays, developer Chad Rennaker said.

“There were a lot of surprises that cropped up” nearly every week, said Rennaker, president of Palindrome Communities, the Portland, Ore.-based firm behind the $15 million development, which is being funded primarily by private investors and some public sector monies. He said additional time was needed to resolve drainage problems as well as to incorporate utility work that needed to dovetail with the nearby ART project.

Renovations to the El Vado began in late 2016. Rennaker had originally estimated the mixed-use development, at 2500 Central SW, would open in fall 2017.

Now, construction crews are finishing the site work, such as pouring concrete for the pool deck, amphitheater, sidewalks and courtyard, said Rennaker, referring to the part of the property where 22 boutique motel rooms, food pods and a lobby area that’s being transformed into a tap room will operate.

The current work is “a clear indication that all the underground (work) is underground,” he said of a project that qualified for $3.4 million from the city’s Family Housing Development Corp. The money helped fund construction of the El Vado Place apartments next to the motel on a site where the Casa Grande Chevron once was located. The site was razed and a 42-unit apartment complex was built, with market rate and affordable rentals. In the meantime, the first retailers in the renovated El Vado are either in business or looking to move in soon.

They include Metal the Brand, a shop that opened Feb. 9 and sells art, apparel and all kinds of cool stuff, said owner Michael Wieclaw, a man of many talents, such as artist, drummer and onetime tour manager. He’s worked as a merchandise manager for various metal bands, pop rock band Huey Lewis and the News, the Vans Warped Tour and music festivals such as Coachella.

Other retail tenants slated to join him soon are the Arogya Center (an Ayurvedic spa), Southwest Cactus and the South Valley Economic Development Center.

Food pod purveyors slated to be at El Vado include Zendo Coffee, My Adventure in Catering, Buen Provecho, Happy Chickenzz, Bosque Burger, Sandia Crust Pizza and El Vado Pretzel.

Thirsts can be slaked at the taproom, where Ponderosa Brewing will be supplying the suds.

Irish immigrant Daniel Murphy opened El Vado Auto Court Motel 81 years ago. Later renamed El Vado Motel, it long was cited as one of the best examples of pre-World War II motels in New Mexico. It joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

El Vado closed in 2005 after a new owner said he wanted to tear it down for luxury townhouses. The city seized the property a few years later, after a long fight to save it.