A historic but trouble-plagued motel just east of the Arizona Mormon Temple in Mesa has bit the dust. In its place will rise a $2.5 million, 45-room Comfort Inn and Suites. Dust is about all that’s left of the Copper State Motel and Trailer Park, which has stood at 651 E. Main St. for almost 70 years.
The 22 rooms have been razed and the 31 trailer spaces ripped out.
A historic house on the property is waiting on blocks for its planned relocation.
The faded, but still distinctive neon sign awaits its fate.
Thursday afternoon, the motel’s owners, Urmila and Ramesh Patel, were buying time from the demolition crew so they could try to rescue the sign.
But the prospects aren’t good. The Mesa Historical Museum and Arizona Historical Society have turned it down.
A regretful Jared Smith, the museum’s collections manager, said he just doesn’t have any room to store the 10 foot by 15 foot sign.
"It’s very frustrating to me," Smith said. "It’s not the most spectacular sign, but that’s not the only factor you’re looking at. It’s what it represents."
For him, the sign represents a bygone era when U.S. 60 was at Main Street, rather than the Superstition Freeway. And the hotel builders who gravitated to this main route in and out of the East Valley tried to top each other with sizzling neon signs.
"The fact that the colors and style (of the Copper State sign) are a little more toneddown suggests that it was an earlier one," Smith said.
Urmila Patel said the redevelopment of the motel is a necessary update, inspired by the Mesa Arts Center.
"When we bought the place, it was very nice, but when it started getting older, it was not something we could fix," she said. "We want to make it more classy and bring it up to date."
This could not have happened soon enough for some neighbors.
Walt McIver, a neighborhood leader in the nearby Temple Historic District, said "It was kind of a blight. I was approached by several of their patrons, or whatever you want to call them."
Mesa police Sgt. Chuck Trapani said the department responded to 175 calls for service there in the past six months, including numerous traffic stops, trespassing violations, disturbances of the peace and drug arrests.
The motel generated 116 calls for service for all of 2002.
Urmila Patel said her family lived at the motel for some time, and she’d grown fond of many of her tenants, particularly those in the trailer court.
"Those people were wonderful people and some of them had been in the motel, had stayed with us for a long time, so it’s not like everyone was a bad person," she said.
Displacing the Copper State senior citizens was one of the concerns surrounding its demolition. Urmila Patel said all successfully relocated, some moving in with family. Others were winter visitors.
Much to her surprise, some neighbors did oppose the project, worried about losing their privacy to the new, twostory motel. It was initially shot down by the Planning and Zoning Board.
Vice Mayor Claudia Walters said some residents will want to choose the certainty of what’s already next to them over the uncertainty of change, but "I think generally speaking, people are very excited about it."
Walters called the Patels’ willingness to reinvest in their property "a good sign" for the area’s redevelopment prospects.
"The Temple isn’t going to move, so the opportunities for investment, I think, are very good," she said.