Since the beginning of Durango’s history, the stretch of roadway known as North Main Avenue has been the bridge between Durango and the former Animas City, which was founded the same year Colorado became a state: 1876.
Motels have been an integral component of the corridor’s history and a mark of Durango’s evolution from mining industry-focused to a tourism economy.
Today, three motels and inns on North Main are on the market: the Budget Inn, Days End and Spanish Trails Inn & Suites.
The owner of both the Budget Inn, listed for $2.15 million, and Days End, marked at $4.6 million, is giving up the properties for retirement, listing agent Todd Sieger said. They were both placed on the market last spring.
Charlie Cole, representing the Spanish Trails owner, declined to disclose the owner’s reasons for selling. Spanish Trails has lingered on the market two years and is listed at $3.7 million.
“It’s difficult to disclose the motivation for selling, but we advise clients to sell at the top of their game,” Cole said. “I can tell you that business is trending up, and we’re seeing 6 to 8 percent year over year annual increases in revenue.
The owners declined to disclose their businesses’ annual net income.
The stretch of Main Avenue where the three properties sit, between the 1400 block and Animas View Drive, has been eyed for the past few years as a source of potential as city officials and business leaders discuss the next hub for Durango real estate and business development.
When Animas City was still a community, albeit one on the decline, Durango in contrast was growing and advancing northward. As Durango’s sprawl began to inch toward Animas City two miles to the north, the latter community was eventually overtaken and essentially became a suburb of Durango.
“Animas City was bankrupt, but Durango continued to hang on until after World War II,” local historian Duane Smith said. “After the war, Durango then grew by leaps and bounds.”
As the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and regional sites like Mesa Verde became major tourist attractions, motels began to spring up on the town’s northern side to accommodate the influx of new visitors. The three now on the market, smaller when originally built, date as far back as the 1950s and 1960s.
“Other than our historic hotels downtown, North Main was the base for travelers in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s,” said Bob Kunkel, executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office. “Then about a decade ago, some were torn down, replaced with multi-use structures, and our bed base shrunk.”
Four hotels built this summer and last have helped the lodging inventory bounce back. It was at 1,729 units as of September 2015, excluding the additional units of the new La Quinta in Mercury Village and the Fairfield Inn & Suites at the U.S. Highway 160 and 550 intersection.
Through the years, some of North Main’s lodging options have suffered ill reputations, particularly because some offer long-term rentals. Restaurants, which have come and gone over the years, have anchored North Main and helped drive visitors’ interest in lodging there.
“North Main has gone through funky periods before, where even before the Great Recession, there was not a lot going on up there,” Sieger said. “Now, there is more going on at the fairgrounds, and restaurants have helped these hotels. I think the transformation has come in the past couple of years with places like Home Slice North and Nayarit finding its new location. It drives more traffic, and it’s becoming a destination.”
With old hotels torn down and new ones added, Kunkel said Durango today has the same number of lodging properties – 32 – as it did 36 years ago. Because demand is on the upswing, all Durango hotels have some staying power, and yet, Kunkel said, it’s hard to predict the future for the city’s older hotels that neither fit the historic mold nor tout an upscale brand name.
“People are much more brand-oriented now,” Kunkel said. “People come to town and look for the hotel brands they recognize or ones that belong to their point system, like the Marriott club, so there is loyalty to those. So the future of the old-fashioned, mom-and-pop one-off motel, I can’t say.”