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After two years, massive pit remains where new hotels are planned

Construction permits have expired; South Durango residents wonder what’s next
Deb Morgan looks Thursday at the large pit several stories deep behind her home between Fourth and Fifth streets in downtown Durango. Developer Lamont Companies plans to build a dual-branded AC Hotel by Marriott and Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton in the lot, which has sat empty for two years. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

For the past two years, a massive pit on East Second Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets has sat waiting for developer Lamont Companies to build a dual-branded AC Hotel by Marriott and Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton.

In February, Lamont Companies told The Durango Herald it had put its project on hold because of the pandemic, and that it was going to resume construction of a two-level parking structure possibly in May. However, no work has begun at the site.

“As far as they’ve told us, they’re still moving forward,” said Nicol Killian, the city of Durango’s assistant community development director.

The two hotels were designed to house 204 rooms total. Because it is a modular build, there hasn’t been any work done at the site where the hotels will eventually be put together.

The large pit on East Second Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets sits waiting for developer Lamont Companies to build a dual-branded AC Hotel by Marriott and Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton.(Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“All of the foundation work is being done off-site in slabs, and then they bring it in, after the site is excavated,” said Kevin Hall, community development director for the city.

Hall said Lamont Companies recently told the city it was around two-thirds of the way finished with the foundation.

“They’re moving slow in terms of on the ground here in Durango, but as far as we know, they still plan to do it,” Killian said.

Killian said the developer’s construction permit has expired. No construction can take place on the site until Lamont Companies renews its construction permit. Killian said the company plans to reapply this fall.

Trees grow out of the wall below an alley at the large pit along East Second Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets. No construction was occurring Thursday at the site, which is set to be a dual-branded AC Hotel by Marriott and Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The Durango Herald reached out to Lamont Companies on Thursday, but representatives could not be reached.

Neighbors of the project are frustrated with the delays and wonder if the project will ever get moving.

“I liked it better when it was just an old house,” said DeeAnn Ruiz, a resident whose home overlooks the pit. “The deer and the birds used to come and check it out, that was nice. This big hole is ugly.”

Developer Lamont Companies plans to build a dual-branded AC Hotel by Marriot and Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton at the open pit on East Second Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets. (Jerry McBride/Durango)

Another resident, Deb Morgan, said blasting done to dig out the pit for the hotel foundations violently shook her home.

“This blast goes off and my entire house shook,” Morgan said. “The lights were swinging, and all the glasses in my cabinets were rattling.”

Morgan said she needs to replace a number of windows in her home, and while she’s not sure it’s because of the blasting, she considers that a potential cause.

“I have to replace all the glass in my windows,” she said. “Is it because the foundation has shifted, or because the glass is old? I don’t know.”

Ruiz and Morgan said garbage trucks no longer come down the alley behind their homes that border the pit because the city wants to keep large vehicles from using the alley.

Garbage trucks no longer come down the alley behind residents’ homes that border the pit. The city asked that large vehicles be kept out of the alley. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“The initial conversation we had with geo-tech and the structural engineer recommended that we don’t have a lot of large vehicles utilizing that alley, just to maintain the longevity of the shoring,” Killian said.

The developer’s agreement with the city was that it would monitor the shoring wall along the alley. Killian said that as far as the city knows, the alley is in stable condition.

Ruiz said a number of homes on the block have rental units that use the alley as the primary access point. Because garbage trucks won’t go down the alley anymore, some residents in the alley have to hike their garbage cans around to East Third Avenue.

After the pit was dug, crews performed electrical work in the alley. Ruiz said workers dropped a telephone pole on her house.

“This alley is a mess,” Ruiz said. “... It’s been horrible.”

When the project finally does get underway, residents say they will be looking at the backside of a hotel.

“They’re going to take my sunshine during the day, and my moon and stars at night. It sucks,” Ruiz said.

Morgan said she bought her house knowing the hotels would be going in, but two years of waiting for construction has her worried about the project.

“It was fine with me at the time, but I didn’t know all the variables,” Morgan said. “I was one of the few who wasn’t opposed to the hotels going in there, but I am now. ... I’ve been living next to a pit for how long now, and it’s affecting my home value.”

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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