Las Cruces touts blight abatement efforts


Future generations will never know the sights of the Kilby Motel or the infamous “eyesore” on Main Street – not if the city of Las Cruces has its way.

Both buildings were demolished in recent years after the city’s community development department compelled the owners to knock the derelict and rotting building over. It’s part of a broader effort and a renewed focus on community development to demolish blighted properties on private land.

The vehicle for the effort is called the Nuisance Abatement Team (NAT).

“Our goal is to try to improve neighborhood safety and environment,” Larry Nichols, the city’s community development director, said during the meeting. “We try to achieve that through voluntary compliance and working with the responsible property owner.”

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, blighted properties can negatively impact a surrounding area. Blight can negatively affect property values and erode the health of the area’s market. Blight can also pose a safety risk, chiefly to anyone occupying a building that may be unsafe to inhabit or first responders responding to calls for service.

But the demolition of blighted properties can have effects on residents who rely on the blighted properties for shelter. Demolition of historic buildings can also have a negative impact on a commuity’s character.

Both concerns were discussed as Nichols described the NAT’s work and goals during a council work session on March 25. He also explained how and when his department inspects a building for potential destruction.

One such property that underwent this process was the Kilby Motel.


Killing Kilby

Once upon a time, the Kilby Motel was not the Kilby Motel.

R.G. Kilby opened the Kilby Kourt in 1941 after constructing the building in 1936. When Kilby died in 1954, the building was sold and became the Kilby Motel.

For 70 years, the motel stood at 1045 S. Main Street. Large trees had grown around it as the city of crosses exploded in population over the second half of the 20th century. But the first decades of the 21st century were not kind to Kilby.

In 2021, Nichols and his department brought the building to the city council. He said a year of effort to have the owner clean and repair the building yielded some results, but during that same time, the property owner sold the Kilby and the new owner was less reachable, Nichols said.

That led Nichols to move toward demolition. After condemning the building in the summer of 2022, the owner appealed demolition, to be decided the city council.

Nichols had plenty of ammunition for his argument to demolish: The Las Cruces Police Department had been called to Kilby 303 times between August 2021 and August 2022, he reported. Those calls included 22 code enforcement calls, seven domestic violence calls, five calls regarding fights, two motor vehicle thefts, two overdoses, six shots fired, six thefts, two warrants, two weapons violations and 15 welfare checks. Moreover, a provider renting office space at the old hotel was charged in a Medicaid fraud scam in 2021.

Nichols also told the council that the Kilby had fallen into disarray. Cracked sidewalks, parking lots without handicap spots, and fire extinguishers that had not been serviced since 1999 were a few of the issues Nichols noted. Others included extension cords serving the place of wiring, entire rooms filled with trash and debris and ports discharging sewage into the open. The building’s roof also presented a risk of collapse.

“It’s a matter of time before there’d be a failure,” Nichols said.

At the same time, Kilby was a place where people lived semi-permanently. Ordering demolition would displace them. Still, the council voted to demolish the building while denouncing the current owners.

“You’re like a business person who is trying to make money off of poor folks,” Councilor Becky Corran said. “I would say that’s exploitative.”

The city was prepared to cover the cost of demolition. Documents presented to the council show they estimated the cost to be between $125,000 and $160,000. If the city demolished the building, it would file a lien against the owner for the cost.

But in the end, the owner demolished the building. Today, the lot sits empty.

More Kilbys to come 

Kilby was one of many blighted properties the NAT seeks to abate.  

At the work session on March 25, the NAT pointed to two other buildings in Las Cruces that might undergo the same fate. Some of those on the chopping block were properties on Van Patten Avenue, Karen Avenue, Brownlee Avenue and Almendra Street. All four buildings, once homes, had been scorched by fire.

Nichols said the community development was looking at 163 properties in the city. Not all were in dilapidated states like Kilby. Some merely had unworking cars stuck in the front yard. Others were more serious, suffering from structural damage that may compromise the buildings’ integrity.

Nichols said 11 of those properties were on the NAT’s high-priority list. Some of those, he said, could be remediated, while others, he predicted, would be set for demolition.

“They represent a condition that is both unsafe and detrimental to the neighborhood,” Nichols said.

Councilors Becky Corran and Becki Graham asked what happens to the residents of these ruined structures. Corran noted that, in some cases, people live in the burned-out husks as renters or property owners.

Nichols said that these people often make complaints that lead the NAT to identify the building for demolition. Nichols said those residents must depend on services like Community of Hope.

Kilby Motel, infamous “eyesore”, Nuisance Abatement Team (NAT)