Two excavators tore chunks out of a building at the Aloha Motel on Tuesday, Nov. 10, as demolition started on a place that was known as a hub for crime to some and, to others, a home for people close to being homeless.
J.T. Muenscher General Contractor of Everson is doing the work for about $139,330.
Crews are removing the 28-room motel’s two buildings and foundations at 315 and 301 N. Samish Way, working behind a chain-link fence that surrounds the property.
On Tuesday, old windows that had been removed were laid on the grass. Discarded mattresses, abandoned bicycles and left-behind chairs also were on the grounds.
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The demolition is the next piece and, likely, the last part of the story for the Aloha, which the city condemned in 2014 for being a blight on the neighborhood.
Criminal activity bled from the Aloha Motel into surrounding businesses and neighborhoods.
As the excavators chewed their way through the building from the roof down and dumped splintered wood into a container for recycling, additional workers removed asbestos from the other building. The demolition on that building, which is the one closest to the iconic Aloha sign, likely will start next week, according to John Muenscher.
Muenscher said crews have 20 days to complete the project.
“We’re really tight on time,” he said.
Part of the demolition included dealing with asbestos and lead in the buildings.
The “Aloha” sign and parking lot will remain after the demolition.
The city of Bellingham bought the 1.5-acre site, which had long been known as a hotbed for crime along Samish Way, this year from Sang and Mi Yi for $1.58 million.
It is asking for proposals to redevelop the property.
The classic neon sign is included in the city’s solicit. If no one wants to use it with the property, officials have said, it could be sold or auctioned as surplus.
The motel opened in 1960 along Samish Way, which was known then as a busy car-oriented strip with numerous motels, eateries and gas stations.
In recent years, the Aloha’s reputation was as a place to avoid if you could help it.
The city started the process of shutting the Aloha last fall after spending nearly a year building up a case, documenting criminal activity through police reports and taking testimony from surrounding property owners.
Residents from the York and Sehome neighborhood associations pushed the city to do something about the motel because of drug use and other crimes, including the beating death of a man in one of its rooms in December 2013.
Criminal activity also bled into surrounding neighborhoods.
Nearby business owners reported regularly finding used needles and condoms on their properties, and at least 11 of the motel’s rooms were condemned because of methamphetamine contamination.