Lynnwood drops plan to convert a motel into family housing

The cost of buying the Rodeo Inn on Highway 99 was too steep, officials said.

The Rodeo Inn on Highway 99 in Lynnwood.

The Rodeo Inn on Highway 99 in Lynnwood.

LYNNWOOD — The City Council has walked away from a plan to convert a motel into housing for unsheltered families after experiencing sticker shock.

The city was studying the purchase of the Rodeo Inn on Highway 99. Had the deal gone forward, the city would have worked with the Edmonds School District and other partners to turn the 52-room motel into housing for families with children who are students.

A consultant’s report, however, convinced the council that the only scenario that made sense was tearing down the motel and building a new apartment complex from scratch. And that came with a steep price tag.

“The purchase price of this building for a demo is just not a good use of city funds or those of our partners,” Mayor Nicola Smith said at the council’s business meeting March 25.

That leaves the city searching for other ways to assist homeless families. The Edmonds School District, which includes Lynnwood, estimates that it serves more than 500 families who are experiencing homelessness, a description that includes living in motels, vehicles and “doubling up” with family or friends.

At the end of January, the city entered into a purchase and sale agreement for the Rodeo Inn. The price was $4 million. A due-diligence period was set to run out Monday, after which the sale would have become final.

The city received grants to support the project: $400,000 from Snohomish County Human Services and $100,000 from Affordable Housing Alliance.

The City Council reached its decision March 25 after a consultant’s presentation. The motel rooms are configured as studio apartments, Tim Jewett from Everett’s Dykeman Architects explained. That space would have provided room for just 17 family-size apartments. A second option with a partial demolition and a new wing would have provided only a few more.

Non-profit Housing Hope advised the city on the project.

“Any sort of rehab resulted in too few units and too high of a cost, so rehabilitation was not viable,” Housing Hope CEO Fred Safstrom said.

New construction would have yielded 45 units with construction costs that could have exceeded $15 million.

Safstrom called it heartening to see Lynnwood and other cities taking the initiative to meet housing needs. He hoped to see other projects materialize. Though the Rodeo Inn project didn’t come together, the location was appealing for being close to transit, shopping and schools, he said.

Lynnwood will continue working with partners to identify other properties, said Julie Moore, a spokeswoman for the city.

The Rodeo Inn has been a registered business since 1998. The property covers less than an acre at 20707 Highway 99. The 2019 assessed valued was $3.5 million. The motel is well-known to the city’s police and firefighters as a frequent source of 911 calls.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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