Neat lines of muffins and pastries. Long cafeteria tables and plastic chairs. The early-morning monthly meeting of the South Nevada Community Association has its rituals.
But today seems different. The Springs Rescue Mission building is cold on this November morning, and the gathering is smaller than in past months. A few business owners are here, along with a sampling of developers, city employees and City Councilor Jerry Heimlicher.
Longtime group leader Bill Kenline, owner of the Rodeway Inn & Suites, is unusually solemn, even when the others began joking about building a statue to honor him in the middle of Nevada Avenue, la Gen. William Jackson Palmer.
About two years ago, when Kenline and other business owners started their group (originally called the South Nevada Merchants Association), they just wanted some trash cleaned up, and better policing. Kenline was also pushing to put decorative banners on streetlight poles. But their efforts attracted a lot of interest. Now, developers want to line the street with major new commercial and residential developments.
South Nevada Avenue, it seems, has even outgrown Kenline. His tidy motel may be torn down to make room for the next big development
to go in on the street developer Jim Rhue's upscale Broadmoor Gateway Pavilions. The new 75,000-square-foot project, located on the east side of Nevada Avenue between St. Elmo Avenue and the Wendy's restaurant, will include a health-food store, and high-end retail and dining. Rhue hopes to open it in October 2010 and says his private equity fund financing is secure. He's awaiting urban-renewal designation before starting the project in order to gain financial incentives.
"We're going to clean this place up!" Rhue tells the group, proudly passing around architectural drawings.
Heimlicher takes a peek at the streetscape improvements Rhue is planning, and smiles.
"Bill's going to get his banners!" Heimlicher says, directing a smile at Kenline, who returns the grin wearily.
It'd be quite a change for the area, and Kenline has always been the staunchest supporter of this kind of progress. But selling his business is bittersweet and rather unexpected.
"I didn't think of that," he says. "It was beyond anything I had ever imagined."
Kenline bought the Rodeway Inn with help from his parents, capping a career in hotel management. Running the business requires being on-call to work the desk or to drive from his home near Security Service Field at 2 a.m. to repair a burst pipe.
Meanwhile, the rough neighborhood sometimes scares off customers, and Internet services like hotels.com, expedia.com and priceline.com skim his profits. He's struggled to break even, going into debt every winter and paying it off when the summer tourism season boosts profits. In the past five years, he's put the hotel on the market twice. Last year, high gas prices meant fewer guests, leading to harder financial times.
Kenline says Rhue's offer for the hotel is fair, and he's fond of Rhue's plan to revamp the area, even if he'll no longer be a part of the neighborhood. But Kenline wonders whether Rhue's ambitious development is practical, given the economy. Under Kenline's contract with Rhue, Rhue doesn't have to close on the property until next September. That, Kenline notes, leaves plenty of time for plans to fall apart.
"We're still thinking it's a 50-50 shot," he says.