Microsoft motel gets a new life

A Route 66 motor lodge in Albuquerque where Bill Gates and Paul Allen lived while launching Microsoft Corp is being redeveloped into apartments as part of a neighbourhood revival project.

Officials broke ground on Thursday on the redevelopment of the Sundowner Uhuru Apartment Complex, one of many projects sought to help revive a once busy area of Albuquerque in New Mexico.

The federally-funded project will create 70 apartments for veterans, the homeless, mixed-income residents, and residents with special needs.

The Sundowner was built in 1960 during the heart of Route 66 tourism.

Gates and Allen later lived at the Sundowner Motel when they wrote a version of the programming language BASIC for the Altair 8800 computer, invented in 1975 by the Albuquerque-based company MITS. The motel was used as a base camp in the mid-1970s before the pair moved Microsoft to the Seattle-area.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry says the motel was ‘ground zero’ for the personal computer revolution and needs to be redeveloped for history.

‘All these historic hotels up and down Route 66 have so many stories to tell,’ Berry said. ‘If the walls could talk….’

Justin Spielmann, the geoscience collections manager at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, said the motel ‘is practically where Microsoft started’ and played a key role in the upcoming technology revolution.

‘This is really the cradle where personal computing sort of came into its own,’ said Spielmann. ‘Albuquerque is really the seat of personal computers and the Sundowner plays into that origin.’

The $US9 million ($A8.77 million) development includes plans for a growers market, retail, and community space intended for small businesses.

Asbestos remediation on the motel was recently completed and constructed has started on a project official says will bring dozens of jobs to the city.

The Sundowner project is one of many slated for a once popular area of Albuquerque along Route 66.

In recent years, the area around the Sundowner, which was vacant, has been a high-crime zone and known for prostitution.

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