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El Vado demolition permit will likely be rejected November 28, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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A few weeks ago, Richard L. Gonzales filed for a certificate of appropriateness for demolition of the historic El Vado Motel in Albuquerque.

At the time, I expressed doubts such a certificate would be issued. That opinion has been reinforced after I received a report by Maryellen Hennessy, the city’s senior planner for the Landmarks Commission, that analyzed the application.

There are interesting nuggets in the 12-page report (alas, it doesn’t seem to be online), and it’s a strong rebuttal against Gonzales’ bid to raze the motel.

– When the motel was sold to Gonzales in late 2005, I heard through several good sources that the price was in the high $600K range. In Hennessy’s report, this is confirmed: Gonzales bought the motel for $675,000, and a few months later put it up for sale for $3.25 million after it became apparent his plan to replace the structure with luxury townhouses wasn’t going to fly.

Since then, Gonzales has lowered the price to $2.25 million. In the application, one of the things Gonzales has to prove is the property is no longer financially viable. His highly inflated asking price undercuts his own argument.

Hennessy also noted this:

“The applicant offers no information on why the property is offered at a price far exceeding the estimated market value or purchase price.”

Hennessy also noted that Gonzales didn’t do a good job of marketing El Vado to potential buyers. “National and international markets exists (sic) for properties of historic interest,” she wrote.

– Gonzales used Druc Engineering to estimate the cost of rehabilitating the motel. Druc estimated $2.894 million.

However, the city sent Ed Crocker of Crocker & Associates, an architectural conservation firm that specializes in earthen buildings like El Vado, to inspect the property in late October. The report says:

“Mr. Crocker disagrees with several key assessments contained in the applicant’s structural analysis and suggests that necessary remedial measures will likely not reach the $2.894 million estimate …”

– Gonzales enlisted an accountant to try to prove El Vado was no longer financially viable. However, just nine months’ worth of statements from when the motel was operating were examined — hardly a large enough financial snapshot. In eight of those months, the motel saw a net loss, but the motel also saw “positive cash flow” overall.

Also, the accountant noted “omitted financial disclosures.” The best the accountant could do was say that El Vado’s viability was “inconclusive.”

– The report says El Vado has enough space for adaptive reuse if reopening it as a motel is not possible. But it noted that tax credits and other financial opportunities for the property “have not been adequately addressed” by Gonzales.

Hennessy’s report asks for a 60-day deferral on the application to gather more information. But based on what I’ve seen already, the city will not let Gonzales raze the motel.

The city’s comprehensive plan and preservation rules are adamant. A property owner must consider all the possibilities in preserving a building or adapting it for reuse before the city ever issues a demolition permit.

Gonzales has not met that criteria — not even close.

66 Drive-In included in theater travel guide November 28, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Theaters.
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The 66 Drive-In on old Route 66 in Carthage, Mo., is one of more than 60 historic theaters listed in the book, “Cinemental Journeys,” by Mike and Vicki Walker.

The book is a travel guide to classic movie theaters in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.

The photo of the 66 Drive-In seen above is from the Walkers’ book, which Mike Walker supplied to me.

“Cinemental Journeys” is $14.95 and can be ordered through this Web site.

An excerpt of the book can be seen here.

Don’t make those New Year’s plans yet November 28, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants.
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Those who were hoping to go to Rory Schepisi’s new Boot Hill Saloon & Grill in Vega, Texas, for a special New Year’s Eve opening are advised to keep other options open.

Schepisi tells me that because of a three-week delay with electrical work, a special New Year’s Eve opening looks “slimmer and slimmer.”

“But … I think we’re back on track,” she e-mailed me. “Well, at least I hope we are.  At this point it will be closer to February [for an opening] unless Santa’s little elves come out and help. I’ll keep you informed.”

Schepisi, as you may recall, was the runner-up in CMT’s “Popularity Contest” reality show. Smitten by Vega, she sold her New Jersey restaurant and moved to the Route 66 town in the Texas Panhandle.

In the meantime, Schepisi sent me a photo of what the under-construction Boot Hill looks like:

You can already see the big porches and the Old West architectural style. I already like what I see.

Historic St. Louis restaurant closes, flees to suburb November 28, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Restaurants.
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Romine’s, a famed fried-chicken restaurant on the Riverview Drive alignment of Route 66 of St. Louis since 1931, is closing because of crime and declining sales, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Security was hired to patrol the parking lot and cameras were installed on the outside of the building, but that was not enough to stop car theft and break-ins.

“(I) did not want the liability of one of my employees or customers getting hurt or killed,” Schafermeyer said. [...]

Relocating because of crime is rare according to one expert’s experience.

“I have never had anyone come to our office expressing that concern of having to close their doors because of increasing crime in the area,” said Theresa Ebeler, director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, which serves Metro East. [...]

According to the article, Romine’s is moving to the suburb of St. Peters, Mo. How boring. Blech.

Wilmington honors a Route 66 booster November 27, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Towns.
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The Route 66 town of Wilmington, Ill., honored Angelo Aggelopoulos as the grand marshal of the town’s Christmas parade and led the countdown to light the Christmas tree, reported the Kankakee Daily Journal.

As far as I’m concerned, the honors are warranted because of this:

Tour buses visiting stops along the famous U.S. Route 66 are welcomed to Wilmington by Aggelopoulos who makes them “feel welcomed,” Fisher said.

We greet the tours with champagne and cookies and a little gift,” Aggelopoulos said.

Route 66 photographer profiled November 27, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, People, Photographs.
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Melissa Lea, a jewelry designer and Route 66 photographer, earns an extended feature article about her life and times (so far) from her hometown newspaper, the Bedford (Ind.) Times-Mail.

If you want to see her work, Melissa’s Web site is here.

Signs, signs, everywhere signs November 27, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions.
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Not that I’m complaining.

Illinois is frequently cited as the best-signed state for those who want to follow old Route 66. I’ve driven the Mother Road from the shores of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River, and you don’t even need a map except for the rare spot where a sign is stolen. Even the older, obscure alignments are well-marked.

Well, Illinois’ stature is going to go up a bit more in that regard. According to an article in the Bloomington Pantagraph, the City of Pontiac is adding more signs so that tourists can better find local landmarks, including the Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum. Apparently Pontiac has a bunch of one-way streets that can be confusing for travelers.

What Pontiac is doing seems fundamental and common sense. But you’d be surprised how many towns along the Mother Road don’t do this. For instance, if I were one of the city fathers of Erick, Okla., I’d not only have a slew of signs near the interstate guiding travelers to the Roger Miller Museum, but also to the Sandhills Curiosity Shop. It’s hard for potential visitors to enjoy the Harley & Annabelle Experience if they don’t know it’s there.

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