Aurora motels entering time of change, the last for most

Aug 2, 2011

Back in the early 1960's, a string of motels along Seattle's Aurora Avenue North sprang up to accommodate tourists pouring into town to visit the Seattle World's Fair. Real Estate Appraiser Richard Hagar tells KPLU's John Maynard that a lot of this property is being redeveloped.

Many of these cute, little motels were built just north of the Aurora bridge. Today, most of them are surrounded by weeds and chain link fences.  Richard Hagar says none of us look as good as we did 50 years ago:

"When those motels were built, they were wonderful at the time. But they've reached the end of their physical and economic life."

Hagar notes that the zoning along this stretch of Aurora is for three- to five-story buildings. That makes these properties attractive to developers who want to buy the land and build commercial buildings or apartments.

Retro-trendy?

He says remodeling a few of the motels as motels might work since they're now considered to be retro-trendy, but most of them will likely be leveled over the next few years to make way for offices and housing. A similar thing happened in Vancouver, British Columbia, after the 1986 World Exposition.

"The main highways coming into Vancouver had old apartment buildings that were turned into motels for Expo '86," Hagar says. "Motels were also built on vacant land. After the fair was over, the motels were torn down or refurbished and turned into apartments."

Hagar also says that farther north on 85th, the city of Seattle has zoned that stretch of Aurora  for 135-feet-tall buildings – designating it as a hub for high-speed rail and mass transit. As  Seattle continues to grow and change, he says, so are the buildings. 

Street Cents” is a monthly feature exploring real estate trends in the Northwest. The feature is published here and airs on KPLU 88.5 on the first Tuesday of the month during Morning Edition, All Things Considered and on Weekend Saturday Edition.