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UNM Seeks Reversal Of Extended Stay Decision

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico will appeal to the Albuquerque City Council to stop a $6.2 million project to convert the former Vagabond Inn Executive near its south campus into studio apartments.

UNM’s appeal was triggered by a “declaratory judgment” issued earlier this month by the city’s code compliance manager, Brennon Williams, that upheld the city staff’s position that the zoning code “does not specifically limit the duration of a hotel/motel guest’s tenancy.”

In other words, the line between an extended-stay motel and an apartment is blurred.

A local investment group headed by commercial real estate veterans Brad Allen and Lance Sigmon plans to convert the shuttered 150-room motel into what would functionally be 150 small apartments available for both short- and long-term rental.

Sigmon, who was informed of the appeal Wednesday by the Journal, declined to comment until he got more information.

“This appeal is allowed under the city process for determining compliance of the proposed redevelopment of the Vagabond Inn to apartment use under the current special use zoning,” said Kim Murphy, UNM’s director of real estate.

UNM had requested the declaratory ruling in November. The university’s position is that the Vagabond property’s original zoning was requested for short-stay guests.

Opened in 1985 as a Radisson Inn, the 89,690-square-foot motel went into foreclosure and closed in 2009. The investment group, University Village Apartments LLC, bought the boarded-up property in September and immediately began renovations.

The 3.7-acre motel property at 1901 University SE is bounded on two sides by some of the roughly 50 acres that UNM plans to develop for commercial uses through an agreement with Fairmont Properties, a Cleveland, Ohio-based firm that has done university-driven mixed-use developments since 2001.

The initial focus of the proposed development will be two parcels on Avenida César Chávez near Lobo Village, which is privately owned student housing, and The Pit. Development of the larger third parcel next to the former Vagabond Inn is likely some years off.

The concept behind the proposed development is that the UNM South Campus is a “non-retail demand generator,” serving the same function as a popular anchor store at a shopping center or mall, according to Fairmont’s website.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal