An 86-room hotel that gained approval this week will replace a building on Camino del Rio, displacing several businesses, including the Rock Lounge and Animas Herbal Wellness Center.
High rent and a dearth of options for retail space have challenged some of the businesses, which must relocate by May 1. A few tenants have moved, but nine businesses remain, and some have been looking for months without success and are fearful about the future.
“I am really hoping this isn’t the nail in the coffin for Sacred Space,” said Crystal Andasola, who owns the metaphysical shop. She has been in business for 13 years and has searched for months for a new location but found rent to be prohibitive.
The building at 1111 Camino del Rio and a separate building housed 13 businesses, said John Bregar, the former owner who closed the deal on the sale of the building March 31.
“They were forewarned and they knew it was slated for redevelopment,” he said.
He gave tenants the opportunity to leave early if they found a space, and a few, including Happy Nails, Durango Rafting, and Cloud 9 Head Shop, have found new spaces.
The Rock Lounge, a climbing gym, is looking at two possible options, but moving to either hinges on city approval, owner Marcus Garcia said.
The gym runs programs for 30 to 40 children during the school year, and Garcia, who also coaches, has helped several young climbers reach the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation’s Youth Ice World Cup Championships this year.
“I have all these kids looking up to me to give them a space and I don’t have that and that’s scary,” Garcia said.
Even if the city approves one of the potential new sites, Garcia will have to close his business for a month to build training facilities in the new location. Eventually, he would like to build a permanent home for the gym, but being forced to move now has set those plans back several years, he said.
The Durango Planning Commission on Monday unanimously approved the hotel, and it will not face another public vote. The hotel is allowed by city zoning, so it could not be denied if it met all of the city’s regulations.
“The developer overall really responded to all of the suggestions that city staff made,” Planning Commissioner Joe Lewandowski said.
However, several of the tenants are frustrated because several new hotels have come to town in recent years.
The Durango City Council’s standards should ensure that new growth doesn’t turn Durango into a community like Vail, Andasola said.
“They need to keep the charisma and the character in our community,” she said.
Missouri-based Central Design Group proposed the hotel, but it has not announced what brand of hotel will move into the building next to Natural Grocers. But during a meeting, a company representative said it would be one of the top brands in the country.
After meeting with the Design Review Board in January, the developer reduced the height of the building and redesigned it so that the building would be terraced and wouldn’t loom four stories tall directly over the Animas River Trail.
The building will be three-stories tall, but the previous design made the building seem four-stories tall from the river because of the underground parking garage.
As part of the project, the developer also agreed to build an extension of the river trail from Iris Park Bridge to the hotel and put in a public restaurant that will face the trail.
The design of the hotel will include artistic wall panels facing Camino del Rio and two concrete pads along the river trail for art pieces.
“I think the hotel is going to be quite beautiful,” said John Bregar, the former owner of the building, 1111 Camino del Rio.
To control traffic, the developer will build a median in Camino del Rio in front of the hotel, which will force traffic coming out of the hotel to turn right.
The median also is meant to discourage pedestrians from crossing Camino del Rio in front of the hotel and slowing down traffic, city documents said.
“It’s going to be vastly improved from what it is now,” Lewandowski said of traffic control.
Sidewalks in front of the hotel along Camino del Rio and between Camino del Rio and the river trail also are planned. City officials expect the sidewalks will encourage pedestrians to cross at 12th Street or at 9th Street, city documents said.
Bregar said he expects to work with the property manager for the next month.
Calls to the Central Design Group about the construction timeline were not returned.
Several of the tenants said during interviews they received notices from the developer they had to be out by May 1 because bulldozers would be on site that day.
For the Rock Lounge, part of the struggle is finding a location that will meet the city’s parking requirements. The city requires one parking space per 150 square feet inside a gym, but the Rock Lounge caters mostly to students who are dropped off by their parents.
The gym needs only 10 to 12 parking spaces, but it could be required to provide about 24 spaces, Garcia said.
Garcia is paying for parking studies at both of the possible locations to see if they will meet city requirements.
Ice climber Liam Foster, 17, is frustrated and believes the project would have faced more opposition if it was a football field rather than a climbing gym being displaced.
“I think it is pretty dumb that Durango’s climbing gym is being replaced by another hotel. We don’t need more hotels. ... Marcus has put so much blood, sweat and tears into this place, and to see it get torn down is pretty sad,” he said.
Over the summer, the Rock Lounge could operate out of a small office space and practice with students outside. But Garcia is not certain what the future holds, and so he has been unable to advertise summer camps.
Another tenant, Chester Jones, bought Durango Auto Detail in January after working for La Plata County for 19 years and is also considering a few locations. But like others, he will likely pay higher rent.
“You work just to pay your landlord,” he said.