A well-known motel in south Tucson that has fallen on hard times is on track to being redeveloped as an affordable housing complex.
The Spanish Trail Motel at 305 E. Benson Highway traces its roots to the World War II era, with a nightclub venue that attracted such entertainers as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Nancy Wilson.
The two-story motel accommodated players for the Cleveland Indians during their annual spring training.
The Spanish Trail Motel was turned into an apartment complex sometime in the late 1980s, with several structures on the 5-acre site falling into disrepair. The decline in the property’s fortunes was also seen with its 70-foot front sign that once contained several plastic box billboards and a large neon arrow pointing to the property.
The neon arrow is all that is left of that structure today. City officials have unsuccessfully tried several times to have the sign demolished, regarding it as an eyesore.
But now two developers, Morgan Abraham and Kevin Volk, who purchased the property for $2.5 million early last month, have announced plans to renovate and upgrade the site’s 120 rooms.
The plan is to repurpose the property as affordable housing, with a special emphasis placed on rooms for veterans. Headquarters for the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System are located just one mile to the south of the motel.
Plans for several of the other buildings on the site, which have been vacant for years, have not yet been announced.
A 1944 ad for the motel, which was highly popular with travelers in the pre-interstate highway days, told visitors: “Come As You Are. Stay As Long As You Like.”
By Garry Boulard
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