Last November, we became aware of an abandoned mid-century modern structure slated for demolition. Contacted by colleagues to aid with an attempt to sway the City Council's vote to condemn the property, we were connected with Mr. Gil Davis. Davis, who worked at the building when it was the KRZY radio station, was passionate about seeing it saved.
PHOTO: Jessica Roybal
In the interest of publicizing his preservation effort, we gathered a group to visit and photograph the site on a rainy January morning. Diane Schaller of Historic Albuquerque Inc. had helped Davis to locate materials on its history, while we excavated legal announcements about permits dating to 1965. Though the station is suspected to have been architect-designed by current and former preservation planners, we were only able to trace the construction back to a supervisor for the owner-operators, Burroughs Broadcasting Co.
The round, two-level building was deemed structurally sound to enter, though fire damage was evident on the upper floor. The property had not yet been fully assessed, and whether the building could be brought up to code - and at what cost - was unknown by the limited liability company that Davis formed in hopes to acquire it. Still, the structure represented something valuable for the city. We prepared a statement for the January City Council meeting to articulate that value and support delaying the resolution of condemnation. It read:
"Evaluated independently, the building located at 2405 Quincy NE is not especially historic or architecturally significant. However, it represents one of a limited and diminishing number of local mid-century modern buildings. What inherent value do mid-century modern buildings have that extends beyond their individual histories, divisive style, and the businesses that occupy them? Albuquerque recently welcomed the studios of Netflix and NBCUniversal; the film and television production industry represents a significant economic boon to the city. Programs such as Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul have famously employed the city's architectural resources as filming locations. The Simms Building, Loyola's: these are both filming locations. They are also mid-century modern. Mid-century modern buildings might be chosen as filming locations because they are visually interesting, representative of specific periods of time, and can allow a city like Albuquerque to stand in for a more expensive city thanks to their design attributes. A successful film or TV show may not only provide an economic boost to a business during production but if successful, it may transform the building it occupies into a tourist destination, generating more revenue. We cannot say that we are investing in the film industry's success in New Mexico if we are reducing the available inventory of desirable filming locations. And tourists aren't interested in driving by closed sound studios; they want to eat where memorable characters like Mike Ehrmantraut eat. I respectfully ask that the Council consider whether attrition to the mid-century modern building inventory is economically sustainable and permit a delay on demolition to allow for this property's condition and potential to be thoroughly evaluated so that it might return as a viable resource to the community."
The City Council voted 6:1 to demolish the structure. For now, it still stands on the corner of Quincy and Cutler, a nuisance to some, a lost opportunity to others.