Motel life

On the morning of Tuesday, March 13, local civic activist Barrie Lynn, a.k.a. Bungalow Hugger, posted an essay that circulated across social media and newsrooms.

It stated, in part, “This is a mid-century motel demolition emergency that requires your immediate action. I have appealed the demolition permits for the Star of Reno, El Ray and Keno Motels on Arlington [Avenue] and [Fourth Street]. My appeal was granted, and I have a hearing date, but that does not automatically issue a stop work order for the demolition. I am down at City Hall right now trying to get a stop work order so that the motels aren’t demolished before my appeal hearing on April 3. It looks like they are ready to blow them up today, and the final demo permits were just issued yesterday morning at 9 a.m. They are working quickly because they know there is opposition.”

She went on to encourage citizens to contact Building Official Dan Holly and Deputy City Attorney Greg Salter, as well as city council members and other officials in order to delay the demolition.

She explained that part of her opposition to the demolition was that “Jacobs Entertainment, who owns these buildings, has stated that they have no intention of rebuilding anything immediately. … There is absolutely no reason to demolish blocks of perfectly reusable buildings when there are no immediate plans to rebuild.”

Simultaneously, neon sign preservationist Will Durham, of the Nevada Neon Project, wrote, “There are a lot of very concerned citizens and visitors that do not want to see these treasures [the motels] disappear. We know that everybody involved wants what is best for Reno but have differing views on what that future looks like. … If they are to be torn down, we would like to preserve the signs.”

A team of historical preservationists called the Mid-Century Motel Team, headed by architectural historian Corri Jimenez, developed a detailed plan for the preservation, restoration and reuse of the buildings. This plan was sent to both the developers and to the City of Reno.

We’d like to join the chorus of local voices decrying the destruction of historic cultural resources.

We’re not against every single act of redevelopment. However, we can’t abide thoughtless destruction without a clear vision for revitalization—especially when a clear alternative, like the plan put forth by the Mid-Century Motel Team, presents a viable alternative.

Nearly 20 years later, we’re still bitter about what happened to the Mapes Hotel and hate it whenever we see anything similar happen. These historic buildings, along with their tacky-but-gorgeous signs, are important artifacts of local history.

The Historical Resources Commission is meeting to discuss the loss of Mid-Century motels on Thursday, March 14, at 3 p.m. on the 11th floor of City Hall.