Jul 082013
 






Albuquerque officials want to encourage businesses to add neon lights that will lighten up Central Avenue along the city’s 15-mile stretch of historic Route 66.

The City Council last week approved a package of proposals for incentives. The Albuquerque Journal reported that Mayor Richard Berry intends to sign the proposals.

The proposals would allow larger and taller neon signs along the stretch of Central Avenue within city limits. Also, permit fees for neon signs would be waived if the signs meet design guidelines.

Berry and other supporters said adding more neon would make the area vibrant and encourage businesses to create interesting things to see.

Berry, whose administration sent the proposals to the council, said he hopes the changes will “allow businesses to create more iconic images up and down Central Avenue.”

City Councilor Isaac Benton cast the only vote against part of the package, saying it’s unpredictable how things could work out.

“My concern is that the historic signs are going to be lost in the sea of new pseudo-historic signs,” Benton said
Benton, who did support allowing more flexibility for neon signs in the Nob Hill and Highland area, said it’s not easy to determine “what’s creative and expressive and what’s just garish.”

Councilor Rey Garduno predicted the businesses will regulate themselves because they’ll want something that appeals to their areas.

“They’re trying to enhance what they have,” Garduno said.

Russell Brito, a city planning official, said the proposals center on incentives and don’t require anyone to use neon.
“We’re just hoping for a glowing reception from the business community,” he said. “Pun definitely intended.”

Apr 182013
 





ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Route 66 motor lodge in Albuquerque where Bill Gates and Paul Allen lived while launching Microsoft Corp. is being redeveloped into apartments as part of a neighborhood revival project.

Officials broke ground Thursday on the redevelopment of the Sundowner Uhuru Apartment Complex, one of many projects sought to help revive a once busy area of Albuquerque.

The federally-funded project will create 70 apartments for veterans, the homeless, mixed-income residents, and residents with special needs.

The Sundowner was built in 1960 during the heart of Route 66 tourism.

Gates and Allen later lived at the Sundowner Motel when they wrote a version of the programming language BASIC for the Altair 8800 computer, invented in 1975 by the Albuquerque-based company MITS. The motel was used as a base camp in the mid-1970s before the pair moved Microsoft to the Seattle-area.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry says the motel was “ground zero” for the personal computer revolution and needs to be redeveloped for history.

“All these historic hotels up and down Route 66 have so many stories to tell,” Berry said. “If the walls could talk….”

Justin Spielmann, the geoscience collections manager at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, said the motel “is practically where Microsoft started” and played a key role in the upcoming technology revolution.

“This is really the cradle where personal computing sort of came into its own,” said Spielmann. Albuquerque is really the seat of personal computers and the Sundowner plays into that origin.”

The $9 million-development includes plans for a growers market, retail, and community space intended for small businesses.

Asbestos remediation on the motel was recently completed and constructed has started on a project official says will bring dozens of jobs to the city.

The Sundowner project is one of many slated for a once popular area of Albuquerque along Route 66.

In recent years, the area around the Sundowner, which was vacant, has been a high-crime zone and known for prostitution.

By Russell Contreras – The Associated Press

Mar 182013
 





Luna Lodge is back to its Route 66 glory, which was no small task.

The motor lodge, originally built in 1949, was deemed substandard by city officials in 2008. Officials said they found syringes, fecal matter and raw sewage flowing into a lot next door. Tenants were given two weeks to find new housing before the lodge was boarded up.

NewLife Homes, an Albuquerque non-profit, recently stepped in.

“We just felt this had a good fit. It was in a good location that needed revitalization,” said John Bloomfield, the executive director of NewLife Homes. “Some projects look challenging, but they can be done.”

Luna Lodge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998; because of this, NewLife Homes had to preserve its historic integrity while bringing the building up to code. Asbestos and lead paint had to be removed before the real work could start, turning the 28- unit motor lodge into 14 apartments, with new units built behind the motor court.

The collaborative construction project cost about three million dollars, and was funded largely by grants.

Bloomfield said all of the low-income apartments filled up quickly, which the people NewLife Homes are most looking to help.

“What’s critical is that we are creating permanent supportive communities where people look out for each other, and are also invested in the broader community,” Bloomfield said.

The official ribbon-cutting for Luna Lodge is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Bloomfield said the next project for NewLife Homes is renovating and converting the Sundowner Motel into a 71-unit apartment complex and mixed-use facility for low-income residents. Tenants should be in the Sundowner by August, according to Bloomfield.

Kayla Ayres – krqe.com

Jan 032013
 



Albuquerque, at one time, seemed hell-bent on tearing down the old sections of the route for all new development – but it seems they are seeing what a lot of other folks and towns are seeing – the added value of the attraction that is known world-wide as Route 66!

Klarissa Peña remembers cruising on West Central, and now she’s part of the city’s push to try and restore the glamour and the glitz of old Route 66.

“We all appreciate cruising,” Peña said of the West Central community that includes one of the longest stretches of actively used Route 66, the iconic “Mother Road.”

Peña, president of the Southwest Alliance of Neighbors, Mayor Richard Berry and other dignitaries were at a recent ribbon cutting for a gleaming new fire station on 57th Street and West Central. They briefly described to celebrants upcoming projects intended to improve safety and to spur economic development in the area in the next several years. Mentioned were a new library, a series of road, safety and sidewalk improvements, new senior housing and a new visitor’s center on Nine Mile Hill, along with a long list of other potential economic development projects.

“What we hope to do is entice people to get off the interstate to come into the community and shop and to take in some of the sights, like the breathtaking view of the city viewable from historic Route 66,” Peña said.

The City Council in fall 2010 began planning a new West Route 66 Sector Development Plan. The plan noted that in the past 20 years the area suffered from stagnant commercial development, while single-family housing boomed in surrounding areas.

That left a significant imbalance between jobs and services and housing, and thus West Central became a commuter road instead of a destination for jobs, service, retail or more diverse housing.

Peña said she’s “absolutely thrilled” that the building of a new community library is slated to start sometime next summer at Central and Unser, providing critical educational services to area schools and residents.

During public hearings as part of developing a sector plan, the city heard recommendations that it encourage new multifamily and senior housing, attract new commercial development and retain its cultural legacy, including the preservation of Route 66, agrarian traditions, expansive views and the eclectic and unique character of the area, which is marked by its collection of roadside neon lit travel motels, gas stations and cafes.

Particularly involved with the plans for the area have been the mayor, City Councilor Isaac Benton and County Commissioner Art De La Cruz, Peña said.

“We want to bring back the character of the Old Route 66 and develop an Uptown center kind of shopping experience for people on West Central and the West Side,” Peña said. “We still have a long way to go, but with the enthusiasm and the tenacity of the people here, I have no doubt we’re going to be successful.”

May 022011
 



The status of the Charlie’s Radiator Shop property has done a complete about-face.
An old sign still hangs on one of the outside doors at the old radiator shop.

In 18 months it has gone from scheduled demolition to guaranteed renovation.

The City of Grants notified property owner Joe Diaz in 2009 that the buildings would be leveled. Walter Jaramillo, City of Grants’ councilman, urged the Grants MainStreet Project to explore other options.

The owner grew up on the property, which included the family home, during the 1930s and ‘40s, said Randy Hoffman, MainStreet Project manager.

“It was the only place between Gallup and Albuquerque along Route 66 to get auto repairs,” pointed out Jaramillo. “And the Star Diner next door used to be where the miners would buy their lunches. The bus that took workers to the mines stopped at that diner.”

The Diaz buildings were some of the first pumice-block structures in the state, according to Jaramillo. John Murphy, New Mexico State Cultural Properties’ committee member agreed.

“The three pumice-block buildings, part of the modest commercial complex, represent the ambitions and domestic life of Charlie Diaz, a Grants’ and U.S. Highway 66 entrepreneur,” said Murphy.

The property owner collaborated with the Grants’ MainStreet Project on the state’s historic designation application. And the site was officially recognized as an historic cultural property in February 2010.

That designation allowed Diaz to pursue applying for renovation grants. Last month the owner was awarded a $30,000 National Park Service grant. Along with the owner’s $42,500 donation, the total renovation will equal $72,500, according to Hoffman.

“I am very happy and excited about the rehabilitation project,” Hoffman said. “There was $90,000 available for Route 66 projects and the Diaz property got one-third of this year’s money.”

The site is significant because it is one of only two remaining automotive enterprises still remaining on Route 66, explained Hoffman. The highway was built in the early decades of the twentieth century to connect Chicago, Ill., with Los Angeles, Calif., according to transportation historians.

Both Jaramillo and Hoffman expressed appreciation for Elmo Baca’s assistance with the grant application process. Baca is a New Mexico MainStreet associate with the special projects’ division.

The original garage will become an automotive museum and also offer community groups meeting space. Renovations to the Star Café structure will convert the interior into a Route 66 memorabilia gift shop. “It will have all kinds of things for people to buy such as tee shirts, posters, mugs, shot glasses – pretty much anything that bears a Historic Route 66 design,” explained Hoffman.

Renovations are scheduled to begin once the funds are received, which should be within the next few months.

“I’m glad they are finally making some progress on that property. It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad to hear the good news,” said Mayor Joe Murrietta.

The grant application included, “This project proposes to perform stabilization and preservation work on Charlie’s Automotive Service, a property on the west end of Grants that once served Route 66 traffic,” Hoffman said. “This renovation will not cost the city one dollar but it will generate economic development through tourism,” he concluded.

The property is being considered for National Historic Trust designation, said Jaramillo. “The historic designation will attract more visitors to Grants. The site could be a gathering place for antique car enthusiasts and for vintage car shows,” said the councilman.

By Rosanne Boyett – Beacon Staff Writer

Mar 162011
 



For much of the early twentieth century, Route 66 was the way most people got to California. After its creation in 1926, it was the way west for migrants escaping the Dust Bowl, hoping to find work in California’s fields and factories. After World War II and the beginning of America’s new car culture, it carried vacationers who wanted to tour The West, visit a new-fangled attraction called Disneyland or see the Pacific Ocean.

In 1985, it was removed from the United States highway system, replaced by wider, more modern Interstate Highway, but in those six decades it gained a status few strips of asphalt enjoy, passing into the fabric of our culture. It was the backdrop for John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, the topic of a song by Bobby Troup and the backdrop for a 1960s television show. Steinbeck called it the Mother Road - and the name stuck.

In California, Route 66 ran from the Arizona border near Needles, through Barstow, across San Bernardino County, into Pasadena and south into Los Angeles, a distance of about 270 miles. Today, drivers making the same journey travel on I-40, I-15 and I-10.

If you’ve strolled along Route 66 in Williams, Arizona or cruised the neons along Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, don’t expect to find anything comparable in California. In the east, the Interstate often bypassed towns along the Mother Road, leading them to inevitable decline. Further west, fueled by dreams of growth and funded by state money earmarked for redevelopment, San Bernardino and Los Angeles County’s civic leaders all but obliterated the old Route 66 landmarks and today, you’ll find Route 66 signs outnumber the sights.

If you want to focus on exactly where every square inch of asphalt ran and when it ran there, following tortuous routes to drive on as much of it as possible, this guide may not be for you. However, the highway department has conscientiously signposted every possible exit from I-40 that leads to a section of Historic Route 66 and the California Route 66 Preservation Association has a mile-by-mile guide and some nice historic photos to go along with it. And if you want to know all the details of where Route 66 went in Los Angeles County, experts say Scott R. Piotrowski’s Finding the End of the Mother Road is the definitive resource.

By Betsy Malloy, About.com Guide