In a review, one customer described the Cameron Motel, at 4500 E. Evans Ave., as the “worst place I’ve been in my life.” Another wrote: “Dirty, Poor lighting, Cold, Scary.” A third cautioned: “Stay away.”
Despite iconic neon signs visible from I-25 and a reputation as a family-run alternative to sterile chains, the Cameron Motel, built in the University Hills neighborhood in the late ’50s, wasn’t known as one of Denver’s brighter spots — or cleanest.
Inside, bedbugs bushwhacked human hair stuck on cigarette-burned, snot-stained comforters. Dirt chunks clung to the carpet. Rust encrusted the baseboard heaters. Electrical outlets zapped customers. Their feet itched with fungus lingering on the floor. Their legs swelled with bug bites. Drug users used and dealers dealt. The friendly owner’s pit bull lunged at patrons when they dared ask for a refund.
The owners knew the space wasn’t for everybody.
“Absolutely no refunds,” a sign at the desk noted.
“It was a horrific motel,” said Aurora resident Kathy Groth, who works at a food bank and often houses homeless people. “I was only in one of the rooms once. And not for very long. But my son knew people who stayed there. And that kind of a place is the last stop before living in your car. So they tore it down, put all those people on the streets, and are building luxury apartments there. Welcome to the land of promise.”
A five-story apartment building with 361 units of luxury housing has risen behind the motel’s site at 4545 E. Warren Ave. It’s branded: “luxury sustainable living.”
The new project’s name? Cameron — a trendy one-word nod to the demolished motel.
There will be 30 studio, 239 one-bedroom and 92 two-bedroom apartments for rent, according to JLL Capital Markets. Construction workers are putting the finishing touches on the building now, and it is slated to open later this year.
The project will also include a resort-style pool with cabanas and grilling stations, a clubroom, courtyards, a fitness center, and a business cafe.
The Cameron Motel site has been enclosed by netting and is being used as staging for construction. JLL Capital Markets noted that the rest of the 5.35-acre plot will be developed in a second stage.
The new development is sandwiched between I-25, warehouses, strip malls and a largely single-family residential neighborhood. The developers are celebrating their building’s proximity to the Colorado Light Rail Station.
The Cameron Motel now lives in memories — largely, bad ones — except for the neon signs.
“The signs from the motel that used to be there are still there,” Groth said, “as if they’re preserving those as historic.”