‘It’s far from blighted here’
Motel owner skeptical as avenue study starts

       When Marie Pemberton bought the Maverick Motel 14 years ago, she thought it meant she would never have to move again.
       Now she's not so sure.
       Despite reassurances from the City of Manitou Springs and its consultants about the public-spirited intent of the now-underway “East Corridor” survey and the urban renewal designation it could lead to, Pemberton can't help worrying about what that will mean to her 20-unit motel at 3612 W. Colorado Ave., as well as others that have existed for years along the avenue between 33rd Street and the Manitou interchange.
       An urban renewal authority, at least for starters, could only operate inside Manitou Springs city limits. But she observed that there are no guarantees that the survey could not later be used by Colorado Springs to implement its own urban renewal effort, possibly even using eminent domain to transform Pemberton's part of the avenue into land uses that city officials and major developers might find more profitable than the mostly mom-and-pop businesses that have been there for years.
       “I don't want things to change,” Pemberton said. “I like the way they are now.”
       In a recent interview, she questioned the findings of “blight” that Manitou is applying to her area in support of its survey. And she expressed dismay about some derogatory terms being used - such as “no man's land” or “third-world country” - by newspapers and elected officials in reference to the roughly 1 ½-mile stretch of road.
       Pemberton makes the argument that her motel, like the other 18 in the survey area, continue to thrive, even though most of them are old, small and not chain-owned. (An exception is the under-construction Comfort Inn that will replace the old Alpine Motel.) At 72 years old, the Maverick is among the oldest of those motels, but the Assessor's Office database shows others with structures built in the '30s, '40s and '50s.
       “It's far from blighted around here,” she said. “We try to build it up, build our business and cater to a better class of people, and so this (the potential urban renewal) really bothers me.”
       Recent guests were a couple that had spent their anniversary at the Maverick 30 years ago. “They wanted to take a picture because they said it looked so nice now,” Pemberton said.
       According to Manitou Springs officials, a possible outcome of the survey is sidewalks, at least on one side of the street. “Sidewalks would be nice,” Pemberton said. But she hasn't seen many public improvements in No Man's Land before now. An example is the narrow gravel area that existed along the street in front of her motel when she bought the Maverick. Pemberton asked Colorado Springs to pave it, but got nowhere. So she eventually went ahead and paved it herself, she said.
       A tour of the Maverick Motel shows modest but clean and well-maintained units. Prices are kept low so that working people can afford them, but the dregs of society are not welcome. “If somebody is staggering drunk, we don't take them,” commented motel manager Daniel Okenquist.
       Pemberton formerly lived in Kansas City. She and her husband, Lee (who died in 1979), started making summer visits to Colorado Springs in 1945. They planned to retire here, but Pemberton made the move on her own in 1991. Some of the upgrades have gone into the the motel's office apartment, which she calls home. “This is it,” she said, looking happily around her living room, decorated with paintings, knick-knacks and collectible items. “I hope I can stay. I love it here.”

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