Update | Kennewick pays $16,000 to board up problem motel off Highway 395

A Kennewick motel is being boarded up this week after the property owner failed to secure the vacant property.

Evelyn Lusignan, spokeswoman for the city, confirmed it hired a contractor to secure the 100-room former Motel 6, 2811 W. Second Ave., after the Portland-based owner failed to do so.

A local representative for the owner, Fortify Holdings, could not be reached Tuesday.

The city said intruders were breaking into the building, which had been used to house seasonal farm workers. On Dec. 4, it ordered the owners to secure it by Dec. 12.

When the deadline passed, the city solicited bids for the work and awarded a $16,250 contract to Columbia Construction Services LLC.

The city will place a lien on the property to recover the cost.

In addition to being boarded up, the site has been posted with “No Trespassing” signs and the Kennewick Police Department is stepping up patrols.

The property is one of six Tri-City hotels and motels Fortify bought during the pandemic, intending to convert rooms into studio apartments amid a housing crunch.

The company paid $5.85 million for the old Motel 6 in March 2022, show county property records. It stopped operating as a Motel 6 at that time.

The Kennewick motel next to the Dairy Queen was supposed to be one of them. However, its planned $2 million conversion was canceled when the owner decided to “go in a different direction,” according to city building permit records.

Instead, the motel got a facelift and was equipped with bunkbeds and other features to support housing for legal seasonal farm workers.

Residents were living there during the 2023 growing season. But it is not clear how it was being managed over the winter months when there is less need for seasonal labor.

Fortify is a controversial multi-state developer with a portfolio of hotels-turned-apartments. It entered the local market in 2021 when it spent $38.1 million to buy 800 rooms at two properties each in Kennewick, Pasco and Richland.

Building permit data indicated conversions cost nearly $12.7 million.

A crew of workers install wood panels over the doors, windows and air conditioning openings Tuesday morning at the former Motel 6 in Kennewick.
A crew of workers install wood panels over the doors, windows and air conditioning openings Tuesday morning at the former Motel 6 in Kennewick.

The Rodeway Inn in Pasco, renamed The Alegre, was the first to open, taking in tenants last March after it got an occupancy permit from the city.

The Best Western Columbia River in Richland, renamed The Franklin, opened about the same time.

The Q, 7901 W. Quinault Ave., near Columbia Center, is also accepting tenants.

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