In the mid-1970s, long before they were household names, Bill Gates and Paul Allen spent four years in Albuquerque, New Mexico, trying in vain to solicit venture capital for their computer start-up. They lived at the Sundowner Motor Lodge, a two-story, U-shaped midcentury modern affair built in 1960 at the height of Route 66’s heyday; it’s depicted in vintage postcards as a swanky joint where well-dressed guests sip poolside cocktails beneath the ambient glow of a neon sign beckoning passersby on the storied road bisecting town. Not long after they decided to move on, the construction of I-40 precipitated a period of decades-long decline for the Sundowner, and for dozens of other city motels now long associated with transience, drugs and prostitution. The Sundowner was eventually shuttered in 2009, left to languish behind a moat of chain link.
But in 2013, local non-profit developer NewLife Homes pursued a $9 million project that transformed the old 110-room motel into a 71-apartment facility with an on-site support and resources center. Most units are reserved for individuals making less than half the local median income; a quarter are for formerly homeless tenants and those with special needs.