The Motel Safari in Tucumcari NM is for sale

 Daily, New Mexico  Comments Off on The Motel Safari in Tucumcari NM is for sale
Mar 012017
 








Richard Talley, co-owner of the Motel Safari reached out to me to let me know the motel is up for sale:

“As we open for the 2017 season and approach our 10th year since purchasing the motel, we would like to be the first to let everyone know we will be offering the Motel Safari for sale this year at $300,000.00

Nothing else will change and the motel continue to operate as normal, we’re just ready to retire and pursue other adventures in life. We have a home in Tucumcari, where we will remain and continue to be involved in our local community, as well as all across Route 66.

If interested, please do not contact the motel or interrupt our daily operations. Instead, you may contact our broker, Richard Randals (NMREC# 16014) at New Mexico Property Group LLC. 575-461-4426 or email him at nmpgnewmexico@gmail.com

We would like to thank everyone for all their support, the Route 66 community and the town of Tucumcari. We love what we do and will continue to do so as usual, until an appropriate suitor is found. Until then, we look forward to seeing everyone on the road.”

Sincerely,

Richard & Gail Talley

The motel has been highly ranked via TripAdvisor as one of the best motels in Tucumcari. With a national and international following and is recognized as one of the top visited motels on Route 66, there is a built in client base waiting to stop back at the Motel Safari for years to come.

This has been my home away from home each and every time I stay in Tucumcari (minus once where I stayed at the Route 66 Motel due to the Safari being sold out!) and I truly love this place. Known for the ‘best beds on the route’ and always a clean and orderly property.

To be honest, it will be sad not to see Rich and Gail at the front desk BUT this really is a golden opportunity for someone to get a great motel at a pretty good price. And with a built in worldwide client base, you will meet folks from all around the world!

Desert Sands Demolition Points to Route 66 Motel Challenges

 New Mexico  Comments Off on Desert Sands Demolition Points to Route 66 Motel Challenges
Oct 112016
 

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An Albuquerque two-story brick motel with nearly 70 rooms that was once regarded as the latest in modern motel offerings is soon to be no more.

The Desert Sands Motel at 5000 Central Avenue NE, designed by well-known Farmington architect Irving Corywell, was put up in the mid-1950s and shortly became a favorite for both Route 66 travelers as well as local residents.

Owned by businessman Clyde Tyler, who also built the Desert Inn at 918 Central, the Desert Sands featured a front swimming pool, landscaped entrance, and two private dining rooms.

It was those spacious dining rooms that attracted everyone from the Kiwanis Club to the Philatelic Society, and the Bernalillo County Federation of Republican Women to hold their regular meetings there.

But in recent years the motel, after a series of ownership changes, fell on hard times.

This summer three separate fires destroyed much of the U-shaped building, finally prompting Albuquerque’s Safe City Strike Force to take control of the property.

“Prior to the third fire, we had not condemned the property and had not taken administrative control of it,” says Leslie Torres, in the City of Albuquerque’s code enforcement division.

“At that point the property owner did have potentially up to a year to decide what to do with it, as long as it remained secure,” says Torres.

But the third fire last month changed all that.

“At that point it was demonstrated to us that the property had not remained secure,” says Torres. The Safe City Strike force then gave the owner of the property an October 1 deadline to demolish the structure or put in place plans to do so.

Although that deadline was not met, the owner has made what is called a “good faith effort” to finally get rid of the old motel by the end of this year.

The decline of the Desert Sands, which according to one 2014 complaint filed with the local Better Business Bureau had both water leaks in one room and the smell of mold, is also a story of dozens of motels along Route 66 that have fallen into disrepair.

“There are a lot of them,” says Charlie Gray, the executive director of the Greater Albuquerque Innkeepers Association.

“And some of those old Route 66 properties have great value, although many don’t,” Gray adds.

Built before the advent of the federal highway system in the late 1950s and 1960s, the Route 66 motels in New Mexico at one time numbered more than three hundred, although less than a third are left today.

But some of the properties are have survived for a new day.

The late 1930s El Vado Motel at 2500 Central SW is undergoing a $12 million restoration which will see the creation of a boutique property with an outdoor theatre, community food court, swimming pool, and retail space.

The De Anza Motor Court at 4301 Central Avenue, opened in 1939, is similarly seeing an $8 million restoration that will turn the property into an extended stay motel with a restaurant and pool.

“Everything we’re doing on this, the signage, the lighting along the way, the landscaping, we’re trying to stay true to that historic Route 66 form,” Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry declared this summer as the project to restore the De Anza was announced.

Both restoration projects came about through a unique combination of public funding and incentives.

But many others have gone by the wayside, although restoration specialist Doug Reames says even heavily damaged properties like the Desert Sands can be saved.

“You need to preserve the architecture the way it was, and take on the new marketing techniques that we have today to really promote these properties,” says Reames, adding “but that also requires a financial commitment.”

“There is definitely a new interest in these motels among the Millennials, and that’s a good thing,” says Gray.

“The question now is whether there is enough interest to make saving them feasible,” he adds. “And I don’t think we know the answer to that yet.”

By Garry Boulard – Construction Reporter

Boots Court – A symbol of pride on Route 66

 Daily, Missouri  Comments Off on Boots Court – A symbol of pride on Route 66
Apr 132016
 

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A green glow that lit up the corner of Central and Garrison for decades in the middle of the 20th century has been restored in the 21st century with the lighting of the neon Saturday at the Boots Court.
In another step in the restoration of a Route 66 icon, Pricilla Bledsaw and Debye Harvey, the owners of the Boots Court, flipped a switch on Friday, turning on yards of green neon tubing along the edges of the classic building.
Bledsaw said the sisters have been working since they bought the hotel in August 2011 to restore the motel to its 1940s configuration, and while Route 66 aficionados have heard about restoration, adding the neon give people more reason than ever to come and see it for themselves.
“We were so excited we were finally going to get the neon on the building because that’s something people will see,” Bledsaw said. “Right now people come because they’ve heard about the Boots, but with the neon on, it just makes it look so much more open. It makes it look like what it is, it’s a Route 66 icon.”

About 75 people attended a two-hour open house at the Boots on Saturday.
Tables were set up with information about the Route 66 Association of Missouri, the upcoming Jefferson Highway Association of Missouri convention and books about the “Mother Road.”
The Carthage Middle School Tiger Choir, dressed in poodle skirts and dark jeans and t-shirts form the 1950s sang a variety of songs to entertain the crowd and several classic cars were on display.

The motel was filled for the night, marking the first time the restored Vacancy/No Vacancy neon sign was used.
As the sun went down and rain drops started to fall shortly after 8 p.m., dignitaries spoke and it came time for the countdown.
Holding up green LED pens, the crowd counted down from 10, then Debbie Dee, the manager of the Boots, turned on the switch inside the building, bringing to life the yards of neon tubing.
David Hutson, with Neon Time in St. Charles, manufactured the neon tubing to exacting standards replicating the green neon that was on the building based on photos and pieces of the original lights that Bledsaw and Harvey had removed and stored.
Route 66 changed when the sun went down,” Hutson said. Route 66 really came alive to try and attract people into the space. So you have this whole thing flooded with light when it gets dark. I think these kinds of places were so inviting for travelers.”

Bledsaw and Harvey said they applied for a grant from the National Park Service that paid for half the cost of the restoration.
Jim Thole, chairman of the Neon Heritage Preservation Committee for the Route 66 Association of Missouri, said restoring the neon is a big step toward restoring the Boots and giving Carthage place that will draw tourists from around the world.

“It’s just a real prize possession of Carthage in terms of tourism. Route 66 tourism,” Thole said. “People are going to go out of their way to see this. And if you’re here at this time of night to see this, what are you going to do? You’re going to stay here, you’re going to eat here, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
“Signs and architecture like this have taken on a new life in the sense that they are now symbols of local pride. They’re local landmarks, symbols of pride for the community, the community can be proud to have this back.”

By John Hacker – Carthage Press

Choice of De Anza developer challenged

 Daily, New Mexico  Comments Off on Choice of De Anza developer challenged
May 192015
 

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The Albuquerque Development Commission’s selection of a developer to resurrect the historic but rundown De Anza Motor Inn in east Nob Hill has been appealed by the company that came in second place.

De Anza Co., which includes Albuquerque businessman Jerry Landgraf, argues in its appeal to the City Council that its 65-room boutique hotel concept was shortchanged in a “scoring matrix” used to rank five proposals submitted for the project.

In its “Explanation of Appeal,” De Anza Co. also criticized the winning proposal by Anthea@Nob Hill, which is headed by Bill Smith of Construct Southwest and TLC Plumbing founder Dale Armstrong. Anthea envisions 30 furnished apartments rented like extended-stay motel rooms.

Contacted for comment on the appeal, Smith said in an email Tuesday, “We are excited about performing on this development for the City and Nob Hill and look forward to helping revitalize the area with a high end property that will have a positive economic impact.”

The five-member redevelopment commission makes the final decision on who redevelops city-owned property. Appeals of those decisions go to the council, which rejected similar appeals on what became Villa de San Felipe apartments in 1999 and El Vado Motel in 2014.

Both the De Anza Co. and Anthea proposals include restaurants. De Anza Co.’s $13.8 million emphasizes historic preservation with a tourist-oriented Route 66 theme, while Anthea’s $8.2 million proposal calls for substantial new construction and a focus on the business traveler.

De Anza’s appeal argues that its original proposal document was more detailed and based on a more realistic business analysis than Anthea’s rival proposal, yet received lower scores in several components of the scoring matrix, such as financial structure and financial capacity.

In addition to Landgraf, who owns redeveloped properties in Nob Hill, De Anza Co. principals are Trip Rothschild and Eric von Starck, both of Santa Fe,

By  – Albuquerque Journal

Ace Sign Co. restoring iconic Bel-Aire ‘Sputnik’ for local museum

 Daily, Missouri  Comments Off on Ace Sign Co. restoring iconic Bel-Aire ‘Sputnik’ for local museum
May 182015
 

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Sputnik will twinkle again. Crews from Ace Sign. Co. of Springfield removed the iconic satellite over the weekend from its decades’-long perch atop the soon-to-be-demolished Bel-Aire Motel building.

The fiberglass ball of spikes, frayed wires and burned-out, multi-colored bulbs was in pieces Monday on a warehouse floor at the Ace Sign headquarters, 2540 S. First St.

Plans are to restore Sputnik for inclusion in a company museum of vintage Springfield signs.
We spoke with the owners, and they were very gracious,” said Dennis Bringuet, president of Ace Sign Co. “We told them we had a little museum here, and we were just getting started. They thought it would be a nice home for it and donated it.”
The last of the residents moved out of the Bel-Aire, 2636 S. Sixth St., early this year. The property is scheduled for demolition as part of settlement with the city of chronic code violations.

Sputnik won’t be ready for Tuesday’s dedication of an Ace Sign Co. museum through Local First Springfield, a shop-local business organization. The museum resulting from 75 years in the sign business is a neon who’s who of the city’s retail-commercial history from The Hub clothing store downtown to Reisch Brewery.
The best guess, according to the Bringuet family, was that Sputnik went up at the Bel-Aire in the early 1960s. Sputnik signs’ were common across the country as a way of grabbing traveler attention in the years after the former Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, into space in 1957.

After years of neglect and exposure to the elements, restoring Sputnik to its twinkling, multi-color glory likely will take a little creative tinkering, according to Bringuet.
“The electronics are antiquated,” he said. “The flasher made all the bulbs twinkle. They’d all come off and on at different times. We may have to do some searching to try to find that device.”
“Flashers aren’t used these days. A lot of municipalities have outlawed flashing signs.”

Sputnik completes an orbit in the sign business for Bringuet’s parents, Joe and Louise. The sign museum is named in their honor.
Joe Bringuet recalled installation of the original wooden and metal signs at the Bel-Aire, followed a few years later by Sputnik. He said the then-Bel-Aire owners purchased the Sputnik from a manufacturer in California.
“They made them as a specialty. They had salesmen on the road that would really target motels,” he said. “That (Sixth Street) was city Route 66.”
The Springfield Sputnik, said Bringuet, was a low-end model for its time. More expensive models, he said, would rotate. Bringuet also recalled seeing the real Sputnik in the skies over central Illinois in 1957. Historians credit the launch of Sputnik 1 with kicking off the space race and the eventual U.S. landing on the moon.
“In the evening, right at sundown,” said Bringuet, “it would shine on the bottom side of Sputnik, as it took its orbital flight around the world. You could sit in the yard and see it, because it wasn’t real high.”

Ace also installed a large, metal sign on the roof and a wooden “town crier” sign on the lawn of the Bel-Aire.
“It had a colonial man with a colonial hat,” said Joe Bringuet. “He had three bells on a flasher, and the bells would go up and down with an arm that would go with it. It was pretty neat for its time.”
Joe, 85, and Louise, 86, continue to work five days a week at the company now headed by their son. Louise Bringuet’s parents, Franklin and Alvina Horn, started Ace Sign Co. in 1940 with one truck and a handful of paintbrushes, according to a company history. Early company signs are part of the museum.

Joe Bringuet does much of the vintage-sign restoration work, while Louise works in the front office. Both said they had no plans to retire.
“There’s nothing to do at home but work,” Louise said with a smile.
In Joe’s case, 2015 marks 65 years at the company.
“She’s the boss’s daughter, and it was job security,” he said. “I married her.”
His next restoration, a vintage Anheuser-Busch neon sign, is in the works, said Joe, who speaks with detailed enthusiasm about his projects.
Why sit at home on the porch waiting to die,” he said, “when we can die here.”

By Tim Landis – The State Journal-Register

An old Flagstaff motel gets new life as affordable rental housing

 Arizona, Daily  Comments Off on An old Flagstaff motel gets new life as affordable rental housing
Mar 222015
 

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Another classic Route 66 motel is being turned into ‘affordable housing’.

A child’s hand-drawn pictures adorn the walls. The television plays cartoons and Duchess, a bearded dragon lizard, rests in an aquarium next to a humming refrigerator. Jax, the family dog, sits on a bed.

Food, dishes and utensils nestle in milk crates, and a massive tool box occupies space next to the door.

Mom and dad sleep on the queen bed on the right by the door. The girl sleeps on the queen to the left.

“We get funny looks when we say we live in a motel,” said Mandi Creel, 23.

Mandi, daughter Arianna, 6, and husband Albert, live at the 66 Motel in Flagstaff, and now they can focus on saving money to find a more permanent place to live. The motel was taken over by a new nonprofit called ANEW Living at the beginning of the month.

“It provides a room to call a home,” said Lori Barlow, executive director of ANEW Living.

The mission: “ANEW Living offers a unique approach to meeting the housing needs our our community by converting older distressed motels into affordable housing alternatives. The rooms and small apartments available at ANEW Living are offered as a step up from the traditional transitional housing facilities while continuing to provide on-site services geared towards renewing and restoring hope to individuals and families seeking to end their cycle of homelessness and build pathways to a healthy productive lifestyle promoting self-sufficiency.”

Barlow, former executive director at Flagstaff Shelter Services, said that her experiences at the shelter prompted her to work toward making ANEW Living a reality.

“I saw a huge lack in affordable housing for working people,” Barlow said. “I saw many people at the shelter with jobs who couldn’t make that leap to apartment and home.”

She cited expensive rents and low-paying jobs as the primary barriers for people at the shelter being able to make that leap. ANEW helps with that, she said.

So, she approached the pastor of her church, Church for the Nations, and the church agreed to be the nonprofit sponsor agency to offer temporary financial backing. Barlow was quick to add that her organization is a secular one, and there are no requirements for religious activity.

The motel, leased from owner Indu Patel, has 20 rooms for about 40 people that vary from single occupancy to apartment size.

HARD WORK AHEAD

The expenses for the new project are the lease payment, utilities and insurance with a budget of about $149,000, Barlow said. Projected revenues, including fundraising, are $162,000. The money left over will be applied toward fixing the damaged rooms. The ReStore at Habitat for Humanity has been instrumental in donating supplies and materials.

“Our residents are all pitching in and donating all the labor,” Barlow said. “We have several tenants in construction.”

The residents who help receive deductions off their rent payments.

The bottom line, Barlow said, is that without the repairs, the organization would be self supportive, but the building is nearly 60 years old and has very little work done to it over the years – with plumbing, water heater replacements, roof repairs and electrical upgrades.

And, at some point in the future, she said ANEW is planning to expand to other old motels in the city if possible. The nonprofit is in negotiations with the building owner for a possible lease-to-own arrangement.

Whereas before the motel saw a large population of customers with alcohol and drug problems, those customers have moved on. And rents, which were collected weekly, as a motel, are now collected monthly. A single is $600 a month, which is $200 less than before.

Barlow said that one of the rooms will be devoted to offering on-site programs for the residents – financial literacy, job interview skills, interpersonal skills, coping from loss or trauma, social activities, cooking on a budget, computer skills and more.

“We want to create more than a social environment,” Barlow said.

The potential residents will be referred from agencies that have transition programs and work with people who are working their way to independence and self-sufficiency – Catholic Charities, Flagstaff Shelter Services, Veterans Resource Center, and Dorsey Manor and Hope Cottage at Sunshine Rescue Mission, Inc. The advisory board for ANEW is made up of representatives from those referring agencies. The people who stay at ANEW will have to demonstrate income, and if they have mental health or substance abuse issues, must establish that they are stabilized.

“This is truly a step up,” Barlow said.

REDUCED RENT

Mandi and her family also qualified for the program.

“We were actually happy,” Mandi said. “We were kind of worried when we heard rumors of the motel sold and didn’t know if we were going to have to move.”

Their rent was lowered, too, and now they pay monthly. A $200 reduction in rent is important.

“For people who are struggling, that helps,” Mandi said.

Mandi works at Cracker Barrel, and Albert works in the area installing flooring. Arianna attends school at Killip Elementary. They moved to Flagstaff last summer to be with Mandi’s mother, Julie, who also stays in a room at the motel.

They’ve been saving from paychecks and their tax refund will also go toward building a nest egg to afford a home – first and last month’s rent, deposit, and breathing room to ensure they can cover rent. Mandi said she and Albert are in the process of looking right now – something in the $700 to $800 range.

“We need to make sure after the deposits, we can afford it,” Mandi said.

She said her hope is that they are in a permanent place in less than six months.

As for living in a motel, she said, “It’s not something you go bragging about. But it’s a roof over our head, with home-cooked meals. A place you know you can go to bed and be comfortable with.”

The family, this week, was able to move in a refurbished apartment unit on the property, with separate rooms.

Mandi said she appreciates what ANEW is doing.

“There needed to be a place like what she’s doing here,” Mandi said. “What she’s doing here, I can’t begin to say how great it is. It’s awesome.”

CLOSE TO THE ACTION

Barlow is willing to put her money where he mouth is. She said she will be living at the motel in the little apartment off the office.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it from afar,” she said. “It will help me see what we need to do to make this a safe community for our families – for me to live it.”

“We’re starting to chisel away at that hole with have in our continuum of care,” Barlow added.

By Larry Hendricks – AZ Daily Sun

Historic Aztec Hotel in Monrovia could reopen in 2015

 California, Daily  Comments Off on Historic Aztec Hotel in Monrovia could reopen in 2015
Oct 122014
 

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MONROVIA – Closed for more than two years, the historic Aztec Hotel is in the middle of a renovation project touted as a return to prominence for the distinctive Mayan-style building in Monrovia, although visible progress has turned out to be as fleeting as the ghosts that supposedly haunt the hotel.

Once a 1920s celebrity hangout and still a Route 66 attraction, the hotel could reopen by early 2015 if work goes according to plan. An application for a new round of upgrades was submitted to Monrovia officials in late September, and work could soon begin with minor alterations to the rooms and construction of a redesigned parking lot.

However, very little has gone according to plan for the Aztec Hotel recently. A former manager who started the renovations by overhauling the hotel restaurant is now entangled in a lawsuit against the hotel’s Chinese owner, alleging discrimination and wrongful termination.

Also, a series of negotiations to lease the hotel’s empty retail spaces fell through, leaving a long-established barbershop as the sole tenant. In January, one new business moved in — a Route 66 memorabilia and gift shop — but it was gone in less than six months.

“There’s interest in the community, and I have to think people are kind of disappointed,” said Jim Wigton, president of the Monrovia Historic Preservation Group. “If the owner was serious about making this a viable concern, a lot more would have been done.”

Despite its troubles, the current hotel manager says plenty has gone on behind the scenes as preparation, and he is optimistic about what the Aztec could become — a boutique destination for Route 66 travelers, ghost hunters and anyone interested in the hotel’s inherent nostalgia and kitsch.

“The goal is to bring it back to the 20s and 30s design, but with modern amenities,” said Peter Kertenian, whose background includes managing Marriott hotels.

Kertenian acknowledged the pace of renovation has been slow, but noted that a building such as the Aztec, a National Historic Landmark that has a similar status at the city level, requires extra time for various approvals.

The newest renovation plans are on track to be considered by Monrovia’s Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Commission this month or November, according to Planning Manager Craig Jimenez.

Kertenian also ran into a few surprises when planning the work, he said. The electrical transformers that serve the building are far too old to handle the installation of air conditioning in the rooms, so Southern California Edison needs to replace them.

Also, the parking lot is unlighted and its spaces non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so redesigning it became necessary before the Aztec Hotel’s restaurant could open, he said.

“They wasted all this time on a restaurant, when nobody sat down and said you cannot open a restaurant when the parking lot is not done,” Kertenian said.

Formerly known as the Brass Elephant, a bar whose rowdy clientele often aggravated neighbors, the restaurant was supposed to transform into the more community-friendly Mayan Bar and Grill under former manager Art DeSautels, who had been hired in December 2012.

“It wasn’t until I went there, seeing that it was closed, when I got into the lobby and saw the history of the building, I was immediately intrigued by the opportunity,” DeSautels said.

While the restaurant work got underway in early 2013, DeSautels invited public engagement through a social media campaign, offering tours and taste testings of the Latin American-inspired menu that he expected to establish. Many of his postings are still available on the hotel’s Facebook page.

“They’ve had so many bad experiences,” DeSautels said, referring to a messy foreclosure that allowed the current owner, Qinhan Chen, to purchase the property through a company called Jia Ming Hotel USA. “There were so many things I needed to do bridge the gap between the owner, the city and the community.”

His work initially had Chen’s approval, DeSautels said, but it didn’t last. Making decisions primarily from his home in China and visiting occasionally, Chen at first appeared more interested in a Las Vegas-style hotel and wanted to make the Aztec’s rooms bigger by knocking down some walls, DeSautels said.

By the time he was fired in May 2013, DeSautels had filed a discrimination complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging Chen had hired a Chinese assistant manager to usurp his duties and slandered him with allegations of stolen funds.

In his lawsuit filed in May, nearly a year after his dismissal, DeSautels makes further claims that Chen was skirting the U.S. Patriot Act and other laws by hiring Chinese nationals to transfer money to the U.S. through their bank accounts.

Chen counter-sued, alleging DeSautels performed work without approval and stole $1,500 through petty cash funds.

DeSautels says all of the money went into the hotel. “Everything I did was to save them money,” he said, also referring to Chen’s bookkeeper. “I had them sign off on all the equipment that was given to them.”

Chen’s Alhambra-based attorney, Peter K. Chu, called DeSautels’ accusations untrue and noted that the claims of illegal money transfers don’t have anything to do with the labor dispute that’s the basis of the lawsuit.

“(Chen) was outraged by the allegations,” Chu said.

The restaurant remodel had been nearly complete when DeSautels left the project, but instead of opening it as the Mayan Bar and Grill, the plan soon changed to leasing it.

The restaurant and the Aztec’s other retail spaces have attracted plenty of interested parties, but several potential business owners said they walked away because Chen kept changing his mind about terms, often seeking more money or repairs.

“We left with a very bitter feeling about it,” said Joe Ramsey, who wanted to start a music store at the Aztec and said he and a partner had a handshake deal in 2013. Instead, after about the fourth round of requests to restructure the deal, “we said, you know, we’re not going to be able to do this.”

Ramsey now co-owns Resistor Records, in Monrovia’s Old Town district on Myrtle Avenue.

Former Old Town business owner Patty Fairman, who had been interested in moving her Patty’s Antiques shop to the Aztec, said she backed out when the lease rate and repair requests kept changing.

Kertenian said leasing deals could come together once the hotel reopens, and said construction is ready to progress quickly once all the approvals are completed, barring the likelihood of setbacks because of the hotel’s age.

He also defended Chen’s plans for the Aztec, saying the owner wants to ensure the remodeling work is a fit with hotel’s historic status.

“His vision is right on, he’s not trying to make this place look like the Taj Mahal or anything,” Kertenian said. “Almost all the plans, the design, everything is set, it’s a matter of executing it.”

By: James Figueroa – Pasadena Star News

Ciesler family sad to see Bel-Aire Motel deteriorate

 Illinois  Comments Off on Ciesler family sad to see Bel-Aire Motel deteriorate
May 302014
 










Whenever Sandra Brunner returns from Montana to her hometown of Springfield for a visit, if she must pass the Bel-Aire Motel, she looks the other way.

Whenever Sandra Brunner returns from Montana to her hometown of Springfield for a visit, if she must pass the Bel-Aire Motel, she looks the other way.
The Bel-Aire, 2636 S. Sixth St., is different things to different people. Some think of it as home, at least temporarily. People who don’t know it’s a mess think of it as a Route 66 attraction with cool neon and the Sputnik flying overhead. But most of us think of it as a rundown eyesore and breeding ground for crime.

For Sandra, the Bel-Aire means family. Her father, Charles Ciesler, built it. Sandra and her family had great times there when she was a little girl. She and her cousin, Chuck Ciesler of Springfield, have watched with dismay the deterioration of the motel that has taken place since 1986, when the family sold it to Gopal Motwani, absentee co-owner who lives in Florida.
“I saw (the Bel-Aire) start to go downhill two weeks after it was sold,” Chuck Ciesler says. “That’s when they let a bunch of the maids go.”

The exact date when the Cieslers opened the Bel-Aire Manor Motel is at least temporarily lost to history. We have a file of stories on it that date back to the 1960s, but if we ever printed a story when the Bel-Aire opened, it’s not there. The Sangamon Valley Collection, repository of local history, doesn’t have one either. And the closest the Cieslers can pin it down is 1949 or 1950.
The first appearance of the Bel-Aire Manor Motel in any Springfield City Directory is 1951, so it had to open in late 1949 or sometime in 1950.
It began as a collection of small cabins and grew from there. Charles Ciesler and his brother, Emil, had greater plans for the motel. In 1966, Emil attended a meeting of the Springfield City Council with blueprints for an $870,000 construction project that would make the Bel-Aire a six-story motel with 64 rooms, a restaurant, bar and convention facilities.
Though it was not within the city limits of Springfield at that time, the Cieslers had to go before the council because zoning laws that covered the perimeter of the city imposed a height limit on buildings.
At the council meeting, the Cieslers were given the OK for an 85-foot height limit on the Bel-Aire. I don’t know why they never followed through with those plans, but they didn’t. Charles and Emil have died, taking the explanation with them.
The Bel-Aire won a national reputation because of its Route 66 connection, a reputation that lingers today since most travelers down the highway don’t know what it has become. Which leads us back to Sandra Brunner, Charles Ciesler’s daughter.
“I remember my mom, 60-some years ago, would clean the cabins,” she says. “She would take me along in a little wagon, all bundled up. There was a gas station out front and a little bar not far from the motel.”

“After my dad sold it, it went right down. Every time I come home from Montana and have to drive there, I cringe. It used to be such a beautiful place. There was not a piece of litter in that parking lot back then.”
Now, the Bel-Aire is the butt of jokes. People post satirical reviews of it on Web-based travel sites.
The city of Springfield has been dealing with the deterioration of the Bel-Aire under Motwani’s ownership for more than 20 years. Mayor Tim Davlin wanted the city to buy it and renovate it into a Route 66 museum. There was no money for that.
We thought the ordeal was finally over in 1995. That’s when the city ordered it closed because of numerous fire code and other safety violations. The Circuit Court, on Sept. 20, 1995, granted the city’s request to close the Bel-Aire — until a fire alarm system was installed, damage from a previous fire was repaired and other safety improvements made. Not many people expected the owners to ever be allowed to reopen it. But somehow they did, and it continued to worsen.

The police reported being called to the motel 82 times in 2003. In 2004, Bel-Aire neighbors attended a meeting with the neighborhood cop at Ward 6 Ald. Mark Mahoney’s office to air their complaints. Everyone had their say, and nothing came of it. Three years later, 12 people were busted for drugs at the Bel-Aire.
Motwani was fined $114,600 in 2011 for 386 violations. He appealed, and that’s still tied up in court three years later.
About a month ago, Motwani was hit with another fine (file all these fines under “I” for “ineffective”) when the city found 700 building code violations. What does a person have to do to be shut down, their property condemned or be hauled into court? Motwani’s Bel-Aire is as hard to kill as its cockroaches. So you can expect to read the same story again in the future.
There must be some financial advantage to owning a place like this. I’m just not savvy enough to know what it could be.
But really, how toothless are Springfield’s ordinances to allow this situation to fester for so long? It’s nuts. I feel bad for the Ciesler family, and I feel embarrassed for Springfield.

By Dave Bakke -the State Journal-Register

City to break ground for Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park

 Illinois  Comments Off on City to break ground for Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park
May 152014
 










Nearly 90 years after “U.S. 66” was proposed as the name for the new Chicago-to-Los Angeles highway at Springfield’s Colonial Hotel, City officials will break ground for a roadside park celebrating Springfield as the birthplace of the Mother Road. The groundbreaking will take place at 10 a.m., May 22 at the park’s future site on West College Street, between Fort and Broadway avenues. Parking will be available on site and on the streets adjacent to the site.

Route 66 meandered across Springfield from Kearney to Glenstone to St. Louis Street, through Park Central Square to College Street, then headed west along what is now Chestnut Expressway.

Plans for the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park include incorporating memories of local Route 66 landmarks, sculptures, a filling station replica, a motor court sign replica and a history plaza. The first phase of the park will be complete by August and will include the replica of the Red’s Giant Hamburg sign; park driveway and parallel parking; and landscaping and sidewalk improvements along College Street.

The estimated cost for the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park is about $1 million, according to Director of Planning Ralph Rognstad.

While the City will provide funding to implement certain infrastructure improvements along the College Street stretch of Historic Route 66 between Grant Avenue and Kansas Expressway, it must leverage its investment in the project with private donations and other sources of funding. A larger plan to revitalize Historic Route 66 through other parts of Springfield could roll out in phases, as the City gauges interest and potential funding. The City raised more than $15,000 to build a replica of the Red’s Giant Hamburg sign through local crowd funding company www.Crowdit.com.

We hope to make Springfield THE stop along the famed, historic byway,” says City Manager Greg Burris.

Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park renderings can be viewed at: www.springfieldmo.gov/collegestreet/pdfs/collegeRoadPark.pdf

By Springfield Regional Arts Council

Motel operator is driven to keep Route 66 culture alive and kicking

 California  Comments Off on Motel operator is driven to keep Route 66 culture alive and kicking
May 122014
 










Kumar Patel grew up along Route 66, a highway long celebrated in literature, song and film. He was not impressed.

On his first long road trip, about six years ago, he found himself bored by the route’s decaying monuments, mom-and-pop diners and dusty museums.

“I hated it,” he said. “But I didn’t understand it.”

The journey to understanding started soon after that trip, when his mother started having health problems. She had been running the family’s Wigwam Motel, a clutch of 20 tepee-shaped rooms on Route 66 in San Bernardino. She could no longer run it alone.

So at 26, Patel took over, giving up a career in accounting to run an aging tourist trap that struggled to cover its costs.

Kumar Patel operates the Wigwam Motel, a clutch of 20 tepee-shaped rooms on Route 66 in San Bernardino. He has become a tireless promoter of the highway’s culture. He sees that as a way to keep the history of Route 66 alive and fill his motel rooms.

Now, as a 32-year-old entrepreneur, he stands out among the typical Route 66 merchants, who promote such roadside curiosities as a Paul Bunyon monument, a blue whale statue and the Petrified Forest National Park. Such sites now are operated and visited mostly by white, middle-aged travelers, whose numbers are dwindling.

Unless Patel and other Route 66 business owners can attract a younger and more diverse crowd, one that matches the evolving demographics of America, the shops and oddball attractions along the route will shut down for good.

“If it doesn’t happen, we are not going to keep all of this alive,” said Kevin Hansel, the caretaker of another struggling Route 66 business, Roy’s Motel and Cafe in Amboy. “It will be history.”

That history started in the 1920s, when the road was built to handle a surge in automobile ownership and a push by business owners to link the small towns and merchants of the Midwest to big cities. Route 66 became the nation’s main east-west artery.

In his novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” John Steinbeck called it the “mother road” because it beckoned and delivered the refugees from the Dust Bowl exodus to jobs in California in the 1930s. Bobby Troup penned his biggest hit song, “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” in 1946.

But by the 1950s, the narrow, slow-moving route was replaced in pieces by multilane, interstate freeways, designed for high-speed travel. Federal workers removed the freeway markers and decommissioned Route 66 in 1985, effectively killing business for the jukebox-blasting diners and neon-rimmed motels.

Today, with the future of the Wigwam at stake, Patel has immersed himself in that history, driving Route 66 himself, stopping to chat with his fellow shopkeepers and travelers. He set out on a search for insight into how to promote his business but ended up with a more personal appreciation of the route’s culture.

“That’s what grew on me: The people who shared with me their stories of the road,” he said.

When the Wigwam Motel went on sale in 2003 for nearly $1 million, Patel’s father, an Indian immigrant who ran another small hotel in San Bernardino, saw it as a good investment. It has yet to pay off.

Like many Route 66 businesses, the Wigwam struggles to squeeze out enough money to pay for improvements. It took five years to save up to renovate the pool area. Last year, Patel was finally able to afford a full-time maid for the motel. Before then, Patel and his mother cleaned and changed sheets while selling souvenirs and booking rooms.

“We still run it on a thin line,” he said.

With the Wigwam’s success tied to Route 66, Patel has become a tireless promoter of its culture. He sees that as a way to keep the history of Route 66 alive and fill his motel rooms.

He set out recently on a drive to show off some of its peculiar attractions along California’s stretch of the 2,400-mile highway that runs from Chicago to Santa Monica. He started from a rundown roadside hotel in Needles, in the Mojave Desert near the Arizona border.

Stars twinkled in the darkness. The only sound was the hum of big rigs bouncing off the blacktop. The best way to experience the road, he said, is by driving east to west. It’s the way the Dust Bowl refugees saw it and later Midwesterners, heading for vacations in Los Angeles.

“On Route 66 you find real people, real food,” Patel said.

He rattled off history and trivia as the car zipped past telephone poles on National Trails Highway — the name now given to the portion of Route 66 that runs through much of the Mojave Desert.

A downed palo verde tree about half a mile outside of Amboy is called the “Shoe Tree” because it toppled under the weight of hundreds of shoes tossed on the branches by visitors. It’s a tradition that locals say was started by an arguing couple and continues today.

“The purists love this stuff because they don’t want to see things that are renewed,” Patel said. “They want to see the original stuff.”

Take tiny Amboy (population 17), once a bustling pit stop. Today, the only commerce happens at Roy’s Motel and Cafe. The cafe sells only soft drinks and snacks. The motel is closed because of a lack of water. The drop-off in business no longer makes it practical to ship in water by train. The ground has long been saturated with salt, making well water undrinkable.

Kevin Hansel, the caretaker, dreams of the day someone drills a well deep enough to reach drinkable water.

“Once we get the water, we can open the restaurant and the bungalows,” he said.

As Patel visited, about a dozen Volkswagen vans pulled in under the cafe’s giant boomerang-shaped sign. The VW road warriors were meeting at Roy’s before driving east to Lake Havasu.

Among them was retired welder Joe Stack, 71, of Costa Mesa. He has been taking this road trip for 10 years. When Stack’s daughter was a girl, she rode shotgun in his van.

But she is now 22 and not interested in the retro architecture of Route 66.

“Young kids don’t want to come out here,” he said, squinting in the morning sun. “Young kids are on a computer wearing their thumbs out.”

Route 66 travelers today have a median age of 55 and 97% are white, according to a 2011 study by David Listokin, a Rutgers University economics professor. Only 11% of the travelers on the road are ages 20 to 39, according to the study.

A few months ago, Listokin read the highlights of his study to a group of Route 66 business owners who met at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim to discuss the road’s future. Patel was there — among the few people in the room under age 40.

Patel stood at the front of the brightly colored Magic Kingdom Ballroom, urging his fellow Route 66 merchants to reach out to young travelers, the way he has done.

He hosted hip-hop, end-of-summer festivals at the Wigwam Motel, with DJs and strobe lights. During a recent Christmas, he threw a doughnut party and decorated the tepee-shaped motel rooms to look like Christmas trees. He’s volunteered his motel as a stop for a classic car show to raise money to restore a historic gas station in Rancho Cucamonga.

His work has won him the respect of older Route 66 advocates.

“We absolutely need that kind of thing that he is doing,” said Linda Fitzpatrick, 73, who is leading a campaign to restore the Needles Theater, a 1930s-era Masonic temple that was converted to a movie house.

Back on the road, just outside Barstow, Patel pulled up to an attraction known as “Bottle Tree Ranch.”

The forest of metal trees, adorned with colored bottles, was built by Elmer Long, a 67-year-old retired cement worker who, with his long white beard and floppy hat, looks like a ’49er-era gold prospector.

During the busy summer months, he said, his bottle trees draw as many as 1,000 visitors a day. But most of the visitors are international travelers. Each day, visitors leave Long a few dollars in a tip can.

“To them, the U.S. is a magical place,” he said, as traffic rushes past his ramshackle home.

The sky began to dim as Patel pulled up to the Wigwam Motel. His mother, who still helps Patel with the business, told him that two motel guests — young ones — were finishing a long road trip.

At the door of one of the tepees, Patel introduced himself to Emily Mills, 28, and her sister Anna, 25, from North Carolina. Emily Mills was starting a new job managing a Culver City restaurant. For the move west, the sisters decided on a Route 66 road trip.

They hit all the big stops, including the Cadillac Ranch, west of Amarillo, Texas, where junk Cadillacs have been thrust nose first into the earth. A few miles south of the ranch, the sisters stopped to see the statue of a giant pair of legs, more than 20 feet tall.

The Mills sisters also spent the night in another Wigwam Motel, in Holbrook, Ariz. — one of seven built across the country by architect Frank Redford. Only two Wigwams remain on Route 66.

“We wanted to tell our friends we slept in a wigwam and saw a giant pair of legs,” Emily Mills said as the sun set behind her tepee.

Guests like the Mills sisters are a good sign for the Wigwam, Patel said. Most Route 66 travelers zip through San Bernardino to reach the end of the route in Santa Monica, 78 miles away.

Patel can’t yet say when — or if — the Wigwam will ever become the moneymaker Patel’s father envisioned. But now he’s grown attached to the road, and sees himself as more than just a motel operator. Patel has become a curator of the Route 66 legend, a proud member of its cast of characters.

– By The Los Angeles Times