Although city-owned motels like De Anza and El Vado have been eyesores for a long time, they need not be. Albuquerque’s derelict motels don’t need to be demolished, they can be resurrected to respect their history and also can be catalysts for neighborhood revitalization.
An example of a successful redevelopment model is the mixed-income/mixed-use redevelopment of the historic Luna Lodge and Sundowner Motel on East Central.
The formula includes leveraging equity from out-of-state investors in low-income, sustainable and historic tax credits to fund 70 percent of the redevelopment cost, coupled with competitive grants from local, state, federal agencies and private foundations.
This formula, with negligible permanent debt and the highest level of energy efficiency, ensures long-term financial viability and continued longevity of the historical asset. These projects exemplify the best in collaborative public/private partnerships.
The De Anza would have been developed by now if the recommendation from the independent selection panel, tasked with reviewing and ranking developer proposals, had not been overturned by the Albuquerque Development Commission.
The process for De Anza developer selection was competitive and detailed specific city requirements included design considerations, neighborhood impact, experience with historic properties, financial capacity, strength of development team and respect for Zuni artifacts.
The independent selection panel ranked nonprofit developer NewLife Homes first, with the highest score. The lowest score went to the developer who was recommended by the Albuquerque Development Commission. Given the issues and delays this particular developer had with prior city-funded projects, it is not surprising that the De Anza continues to sit idle.
Projects like the De Anza have had a history of for-profit developers promising, but not delivering, and going back to the city for more funds. To pencil out these projects typically requires nonprofit participation to tap into the funding sources that are not available to for-profit developers.
Furthermore, these projects are complicated and difficult to execute, involving numerous levels and layers of government, timing issues with tax credit deadlines, coupled with environmental concerns, detailed historic issues and energy efficiency considerations.
For example, historic requirements are often at odds with new energy efficiency requirements.
These projects necessitate having a development team with creative problem-solving skills, who see rejection, bureaucratic obstacles and inter-agency conflict as challenges to learn from and overcome.