The proposed 250,000-square-foot hotel on Second Avenue would be a blight on the Durango landscape. I’m absolutely for sensible economic development, but this is out of all proportion and scale to its surroundings, something the town invested a lot of time and money in defining in the development guidelines and master plan of 2007.
Based on the modern design and the request for a variance to the commercial height limit, it’s clear the hotel will be the dominant feature of south Main, Second and Third Avenue neighborhoods and commercial areas. Is this really what we want? The proposed hotel violates several key design principles (including scale), something the Planning Commission seemed to forget when it blithely approved the height variance, primarily, it appears, out of sympathy for the developer, Scott McCallister.
McCallister has explicitly stated he intends to sell the hotel to one of the large, global hotel chains such as Hyatt or Marriott. Once built and sold off, the city would have little recourse if the corporate owner wanted to use the property for a budget brand. Although developers typically ask for much more than they plan on getting during the development phase and create meaningless design elements to negotiate away (as evidenced by a proposed stair access between Third and Second avenues) the resulting structure would still dwarf the Third Avenue neighborhood south of College. We’re already seeing negative neighborhood impact as planned renovations are being put on hold and owners consider selling or moving out pending the outcome.
If these hotel plans proceed, be assured, south Third Avenue will no longer be a neighborhood. Is this OK with the Planning Commission? Is it what the members want? Reasonable economic development and progress is absolutely necessary, but let’s not sell away our town’s heart and soul for one person’s profit. And make no mistake about it, if this hotel is approved, the town Planning Commission and City Council are sending a message to the residents of Durango that we value commercial development over a neighborhood’s well-being.