The De Anza Motor Lodge’s iconic sign will once again shine among the Route 66 neon, perhaps the most visible sign so far that the nearly three-year effort to rebuild the historic property is nearing its end.
The developers are hosting a sign-lighting ceremony for the De Anza, which had fallen into disrepair before being purchased and rebuilt as an upscale apartment complex and corporate stay location, on Sunday evening. Roughly half of the 40 units are occupied and a three-level entertainment center is slated to open its doors later this month.
Developers are optimistic that the new project, located at 4301 Central NE, can serve as a destination that will bring visitors back to the overlooked eastern edge of Nob Hill.
“This end of Nob Hill has seen its difficulties, but I think the reestablishment of the De Anza into what it is now will help,” said David Peters, property manager of the motor lodge.
The De Anza was built in 1939 by a team that included C.G. Wallace, who traded with Zuni Pueblo and amassed a trove of artifacts that he incorporated into the then-new motel. As Route 66 grew in prominence, so did the neon-lit motels that lined the Albuquerque stretch.
As with many other motor lodges of its age, the De Anza fell into disrepair after Route 66 was decommissioned.
In 2003, the City of Albuquerque purchased the deteriorating property for around $891,000. The city’s Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency partnered with the investment group Anthea @ Nob Hill LLC to rebuild and revitalize the property. Last February, Bernalillo County provided a $350,000 grant for the project, which will be paid back using gross receipts taxes collected by the company, according to the Journal’s archives.
When developers took over the building in 2017, Peters found it run down and infested with feral cats.
“There were dead cats underneath the crawl spaces,” Peters said. “It was bad.”
The developers sank around $9 million into the project to restore it to its former glory. Per the conditions of the redevelopment project, the developers retained two buildings on the property, a low-slung building on the eastern edge of the property and the former home of the Turquoise Cafe, which is unoccupied and being marketed as a two-story office or a restaurant with a second-story patio.
“Anytime you have a patio in Albuquerque, you have a step up on your competition,” Peters said.
The rest of the property was demolished and rebuilt as a collection of two-story dwellings. The rent at the apartments, which include studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom floor plans, ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 per month.
In the middle of the complex is an entertainment center, which will be nicknamed “The Church” after a former caretaker on the property. The facility contains space for a coffee shop, as well as a bocce court and other games. A basement area, accessible via an elevator, contains Zuni relics preserved from the previous iteration of the De Anza. As an homage to Wallace, who gave out fresh peaches to motor lodge guests, the campus will also include a new grove of peach trees, donated by Zuni Pueblo members.
If it’s fully leased, the facility could house up to 80 residents, including short-term visitors. Peters said he sees the new residents and potential new office or restaurant space at the Turquoise Cafe as vital to bringing people back to a stretch of Central Avenue that has fallen on hard times.
“Washington and Central had been pretty run-down, and we’re that first cornerstone development helping Nob Hill come back to what it was in the past,” he said.