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De Anza project is beginning to take shape

What a difference a year makes.

Long abandoned and blighted with a chain-link fence surrounding the property, the De Anza Motor Lodge was clearly an eyesore along Central Avenue when developers broke ground on the project last November, said Jim Trump, construction project manager of the mixed-use development.

Flash forward: The De Anza, which is being rebuilt at a cost of just under $9 million, looks drastically different, said Trump, who recently provided a progress report.

Nearly all of the buildings have come down; only a couple remain, such as the Turquoise Cafe coffee shop. “Indeed, we’ve got a very strong prospect there,” said Trump about a potential tenant for Turquoise.

One of the challenges at the construction site is that it’s a “very tight” workplace in which to maneuver, said Trump. “Our subcontractor did a lot of framing off site” at a fabrication facility and reassembled the structures now in place.

Ninety percent of the infrastructure work is completed, such as an upgraded electrical system and sewer lines. “We’re going to asphalt to the curb in the next 30 days and move the fence back so it’s not all the way up on Central” said Trump, speaking on behalf of the development team, which includes HB Construction, TLC Plumbing and Utility and The Hartman + Majewski Design Group.

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The old DeAnza under construction on Central Avenue. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

“You can start to see the ‘massing’ now taking place” on the property, said Trump.

Purchased by the City of Albuquerque in 2003 for nearly $891,000, it took three attempts to finally secure a development partner with a vision for the historic landmark in East Nob Hill.

The De Anza will be replaced by a new hotel and apartment complex, restaurants, retailers and office tenants, echoing the original and preserving some of the historic elements including the neon sign and the Zuni murals.

The sign will be restored and hoisted in a public plaza where it will have better visibility and “lots of potential for Instagramming,” said Trump. “We’re also working on getting a peach tree from the Zuni pueblo to plant” at the Route 66-era property that was built in 1939 by Charles G. Wallace, a local trader of Zuni art and pottery, who remained the owner until 1983.

Wallace used to hand out peaches to all his residents and guests from a tree that once grew at De Anza but which died from years of neglect, said Trump. “We’re still targeting February (2019) for completion of construction, with a grand opening party tentatively slated for April,” he added.

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