Top stories of 2016: Macs Motel second Samish Way motel to shut down in 6 months


Just as 2016 got underway, Macs Motel off Samish Way, which catered to long-term guests, was shut down by the state, making it the second major motel along Samish to close down in a 6-month period.

The Washington State Department of Health determined the motel at 1215 E. Maple St. was not truly operating as a motel, and that it should not be able to renew its required transient accommodation license.

The motel’s owners required their guests to leave by Jan. 5, 2016, and by the end of that same month, a judge determined the owners could not get the license to operate the facility as a motel.

The city helped pay for an additional worker for the Opportunity Council’s Homeless Outreach Team, to help any of the residents who might become homeless due to the closure get in touch with resources, if they were interested in talking to the team.

“Within the first month, 10 households relocated themselves, and we were able to get another seven cases to the Opportunity Council, most of them were vets,” said Mike Parker, director of the Whatcom Homeless Service Center. “We were trying to connect people with more mainstream resources than another hotel, but it’s really important to know that about a third of those folks figured it out on their own.”

The part-time position added to the HOT team remains, and that person now enables expanded hours for the team to work in the downtown area, Parker said.

Unlike the Aloha Motel, which the city of Bellingham condemned and demolished as a blight on the neighborhood, Macs’ issues stemmed from the state’s case.

However, the city worked with the motel’s owners throughout 2016 to see what options they might have to convert the building into apartments, said Darby Cowles, a senior planner at the city.

Meanwhile, across the street from Macs is the empty space where the Aloha once stood. The Bellingham Housing Authority has proposed building a mix of affordable housing there, with integrated parking and possibly street-level commercial space.

“We’re anticipating closing on the property hopefully by the end of February,” Cowles said.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil