We are very happy that a new hotel will be built on the old Sunset Highway in the Town Center.
The new Hotel Mercer, to be completed in 2015, will replace the 50-year-old Travelodge that was torn down some half dozen years ago.
But it won’t be the same.
Make no mistake, the Travelodge needed to be torn down. As the years passed, it became an eyesore, a bit dilapidated as it awaited its fate. Located on the North end of the Island on the old Sunset Highway, it became dwarfed by The Mercer Apartments and Aljoya construction sites, sitting in an increasingly congested and noisy space. And it was old and dated. The 33-room, 13,000-square-foot motel was built in 1957. Its design was classic 1950s — the place where you pulled the Chevy off the highway and parked at the door.
Yet, the place was always full. The two-story motel was the only game in town or even nearby, for years. Its demise has been a loss. Every town needs a place like the Travelodge — an OK place close by — clean enough, cheap and easy. When it closed, the rates at the old motel were between $79 and $129 a night. It is doubtful that rooms at the new hotel will be offered at those rates.
In these intervening years, it has been difficult, if not impossible, to find a place to stay nearby when a tree fell on the house during a storm or when the floors were refinished. Where would you put up those college friends of your daughter when the beds at home were full? The alternative? A hotel or motel in faraway Seattle or Bellevue.
There are a few bed and breakfasts here on the Island, but they are not the kind of place that construction workers are likely to stay. Many Islanders remember that the Travelodge parking lot was — more often than not — full of big pickups packed with construction gear. It was not fancy, but clean and convenient. From there, the crews were up early to grab a cup of coffee (and a bite at the now long-gone Denny’s restaurant) and be off to their jobs — many times, right on the Island.
Now, there was a way to save gas and energy.