Rehabilitation models for the treatment of historic motels and motor courts
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This thesis presents owners, developers, and preservationists with models for the rehabilitation of motels and motor courts. The introductory section gives readers an overview of the evolution of the motor court and motel. It then focuses on the fates of motels and motor courts in the city of Austin, Texas, as an example of how owners and developers have dealt with the program type. The second section of this thesis discusses the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, a federal initiative to document and conserve the road itself as well as the “significant features associated with the highway” such as roadside stands, gas stations, and motels (“Route 66 Study Act,” 1990). This section also explores two examples of owner-led efforts to preserve motels along Route 66: Boots Court in Carthage, Missouri, and the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri. The remaining sections of this thesis focus on four models for the rehabilitation of motels and motor courts. Case studies include Hotel San José, a motor court that was redeveloped into a boutique hotel in Austin, Texas; the Park Motel, a cottage court transformed into rentable business space in San Antonio, Texas; Arbor Terrace, an extended-stay hotel converted into supportive housing in Austin owned by Foundation Communities; and Costa Mesa Village, an SRO community in Costa Mesa, California, housed in a former Travelodge. For each case study, I discuss the site’s history, the original and current configurations and appearance, what makes the project successful, and whether aspects of the project are sympathetic with the goals of preservation. When considering rehabilitation of an historic motel or motor court, developers should consider the configuration of the building and what model would best serve the existing program. Motels in tourist districts with space to provide both private and public functions may be well served to consider the boutique hotel model exemplified by Hotel San José. A motel in a business district with flexible interior spaces able to cater to a variety of tenants might look to the Park Motel and create rentable spaces for small businesses. Those interested in pursuing a nonprofit model for rehabilitating their extant building stock could consider how they could benefit their communities by becoming SRO housing like Arbor Terrace or workforce housing complexes like Costa Mesa Village. Regardless of the project, it is clear that access to private donations, bank loans, or local and federal assistance is integral to the success of a rehabilitation project. Lambert required a sizeable loan before beginning work on Hotel San José that could only be secured when the lender was confident in the return on investment; Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds have allowed Foundation Communities to continue adding SROs in Austin. Though the Perezes didn’t divulge the amount of money spent on their adaptive reuse project, Allison Perez Johnson said that return on investment displayed by property owned by the Perez Family Trust along Broadway Street in San Antonio helped them get approved for loans for their rehabilitation project. As for properties like Harvey’s Boots Motel on Route 66, rehabilitation becomes an ongoing process that only occurs as money permits, and their ability to remain sustainable is supported by heritage tourists who patronize roadside businesses looking to find or recreate their own Route 66 adventures.