Spanish Trails Inn and Suites might not seem like the most promising site for a business investment in Durango.
But John Hazen, who purchased the old north Main Avenue inn in August 2018 for $2 million with the intention of cleaning up the property’s notorious reputation for criminal activity, specializes in turning around distressed motels.
His firm, Motel Man, principally operates in Colorado, with properties in Montrose, Ouray, Steamboat Springs, Wheat Ridge and several other inns in Durango.
“A lot of people are seeking work in Durango, and housing is so expensive, they have no place to go,” Hazen said. “We want a decent, safe, clean, nice place for these people to live, and that’s the direction we’re going.”
Hazen is in the midst of a remodel of Spanish Trails’ 51 rooms. He plans to put in new wood floors, appliances, beds, furniture, closets and bathroom fixtures in each of the rooms.
Remodels of room interiors, which also include fresh coats of paint and some new plaster work, are expected to be complete in August.
Hazen also plans to improve landscaping – even tearing out some asphalt to replace with grass and a few trees.
“We’re working on a paint scheme for the exterior. We want it to look like a little village,” Hazen said, adding he is planning to add a mural at the end of one of the buildings on the property.
Upgrades also have included enhanced security, with 45 new cameras and new lighting installed throughout the inn’s grounds, said Spanish Trails Inn Property Manager Vikki Valdez.
“We can see what’s going on around the clock, and if necessary, help the police department,” she said.
Hazen, who has been a hotel broker for 35 years, said he’s worked to remove bad tenants from the property.
“We’re not playing games. If you mess up, you’re gone,” he said.
Upgrades to outdoor areas, Valdez said, will include new stairwells and more thoughtful design of space to create sitting areas and small patios.
John Griego, who has been in Durango several months after joining his girlfriend, Tracy Yalch, is thankful for the home he’s found at the Spanish Trails Inn & Suites.
Griego said he and Yalch left Albuquerque, which had become crime-ridden in the area they lived, looking for a better quality of life in Colorado.
After spending a few months working in Salida, they discovered Durango, and Griego met Hazen at Home Depot, where he had found a job while living out of his truck.
Hazen was shopping for material for the Spanish Trails remodel, and Griego said he struck up a friendship working with Hazen, who invited him to check out living arrangements at Spanish Trails
“He invited us to stay in his establishment. I didn’t have enough money for the first week, and he told me to give what I could now, and we would make up for it later. I told John Hazen my situation, and he offered me a roof to put over my head,” Griego said.
Griego is impressed with the friendliness of Durango and the resources the community offers to help people struggling economically. He’s also received assistance at Durango Food Bank and at Manna soup kitchen.
“The community here in Durango is just awesome. The resources in Durango are incredible if you want a hand up and not a hand out,” he said.
Adriane Anthony, who is doing metalwork at Spanish Trails, met Hazen in the laundry room at Spanish Trails after Volunteers for America shelter provided her money for a week’s stay.
Now, she is renting a house in south Durango with her boyfriend and five kids after initially staying at Spanish Trails, where her wages for her metalwork helped pay for her room.
Like Griego, Anthony said she was fleeing a big city, Austin, Texas, when she discovered Durango after staying briefly in Pagosa Springs.
Also like Griego, Anthony said she’s received help in Durango beyond assistance from Hazen and the shelter she found at Spanish Trails.
“St. Mark’s helped us get through tough times, and the schools are great. Our kids love it here,” she said.
Hazen, she said, not only helped her in finding shelter, but also helped her get a job in Durango.
“He’s just a really good dude. He helped me find a job. He’s providing jobs for people who need them,” she said. “I know Spanish Trails is an issue in this town, but it’s been pivotal in helping me.”