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After four years, work moves ahead at giant hole in the ground in downtown Durango

Residents have felt a range of emotions: Concern, frustration, resignation
Contractors work on the long-delayed dual-branded hotel project in the 400 block of East Second Avenue across from Gazpacho Restaurant in downtown Durango. The hotels will include a total of 202 rooms and the structure will stand six stories tall at its highest point. (Jerry McBride/Durango)

Residents who were displeased with the dual hotel development planned for the gigantic human-made hole in the 400 block of East Second Avenue in downtown Durango have been largely apathetic about a recent surge in foundation work at the site.

The project, a dual-branded AC Hotel by Marriott and Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton, has stalled after the hole was excavated in 2019, although the city originally approved developer Lamont Companies’ specific site plan in November 2014, according to Daniel Murray, city planner.

The developer received a foundation permit in January, 2021 But work was delayed and the city eventually agreed to an extension of that permit, he said. The developer cited COVID-19, contractor problems and supply chain issues to the city as reasons for the delay.

Residents who had previously opposed the project – some even petitioned City Council to shut down development – are now saying if the hotels are going to be built, just build them already.

“It’s been a long waiting process,” said Deb Morgan, a resident in the 200 block of East Fourth Street. “And if that thing’s going up, let’s just get it up so we can all move along.”

It appears Lamont Cos. is doing just that. Work has finally resumed at the hole, with concrete foundations seen jutting out of freshly upheaved earth with excavators and other construction vehicles occupying the site. Foundation work started Dec. 20, Murray said.

He said foundation work will continue through fall, with a double-decker parking garage. The next step takes the project vertical, with modular construction planned this fall and into next year.

Contractors pour concrete Tuesday on the long delayed dual-branded hotel project in the 400 block of East Second Avenue. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Murray said a more precise preliminary construction schedule is being composed by Lamont Cos. After that is completed, the city will host a neighborhood meeting to inform area residents of the progress and proposed timeline.

Jeff Lamont, founder of Lamont Cos., did not immediately return requests for comment about the construction schedule.

The end result will be two hotels with 202 rooms total. The project will stand six stories tall at its highest point, he said. The hotels are modular, prefabricated units that will be delivered by truck and stacked together with a crane and some physical labor.

He said the modular construction method is a little faster than traditional construction.

For reference, the Gauge Apartments, an 89-unit apartment project on Escalante Drive behind Home Depot, is also using modular units. Construction started in January and is expected to be completed by Labor Day (Sept. 4).

‘Just build it’
Contractors pour concrete Tuesday on the long-delayed dual-branded hotel project on East Second Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets across from Gazpacho Restaurant. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

For residents, troubles began in 2018 with excavation of the site. Blasting done to create the giant foundational hole shook neighbors’ homes. Morgan said blasts rattled glasses in her cabinets and shook her home lights.

Jo Martinez, a resident in the 500 block of East Third Avenue, also said the initial excavation was disruptive, with shocks and booms from blasting reverberating through her home. She and other residents went to City Council to ask that the project be canceled, but to no avail.

She said a view of the La Plata Mountains will disappear once the hotels are erected.

“It is what it is,” she said.

Martinez said she is no longer concerned about the project because she has no say in the matter.

“When I went to City Council, they shut us off. What can I say?” she said.

Morgan said more recent foundation work hasn’t been so bad. One day, workers were excavating a portion of the 30-foot wall below the alley that runs beside her home and her house vibrated. But she isn’t complaining.

“I think it’s fine,” she said. “I know they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do to put that thing up.”

Deb Morgan looks at the large hole about 30 feet deep behind her home on East Second Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets in 2021. Delayed for years, developer Lamont Cos. finally resumed work on a dual-branded AC Hotel by Marriott and Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton. Foundation work is planned through fall for a parking garage, and modular construction of 202 hotel units is planned after that. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

She isn’t particularly bothered about losing the view of the mountains someday, she said. Her house faces east, with her back kitchen windows and backyard the only view she has of the mountains anyway.

“And I have to say, the view of the mountains is lovely. But when I bought my house I knew those hotels were supposed to go in,” she said. “And it was fine with me. I just look at it as city living. The view is nice, but it’s not my main reason for living in that house.”

She said City Council made the wrong call to approve the development in the first place. But it doesn’t matter anymore.

“I think the City Council originally made a lot of poor choices with them approving that whole project. But that’s all hindsight. That happened years ago,” she said. “Different City Council. And we’re stuck with what it is.”


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